BEIJING — Men with knives burst into a Chinese college dormitory and slashed nine students in the latest violence in a country shaken by a recent string of rampages at schools.
Wednesday's pre-dawn attack did not fit the pattern of earlier ones. Instead of a lone man targeting young children, at least five men targeted students in their teens or early 20s. And while China is still struggling to find a motive behind most of the recent stabbings, the latest appeared to be in revenge for an earlier confrontation between students and villagers.
The attack showed that repeated efforts to increase school security across China can still fail.
The official Xinhua News Agency said two students were seriously hurt. One's hand was cut off.
Four students had been wounded in the earlier confrontation that led to the attack.
State media reports said the violence began late Tuesday with a fight between students eating at a food stall outside the Hainan Institute of Science and Technology and men from villages near Haikou, the capital of the southern island province of Hainan.
Four students were attacked with knives, and police were called but left after questioning the students, the reports said. The villagers then called for reinforcements and attacked the dormitory at about 2:30 a.m.
A spokesman for the provincial government confirmed the report but said he had no other information.
Xinhua put the number of attackers at more than 10 and said they first assaulted a guard and disabled security cameras before rushing into two dormitories and attacking the students, apparently at random.
China's recent school attacks have led to efforts to tighten security at schools across the country, with police and security guards, sometimes armed, posted at entrances.
Five earlier assaults in the last two months have killed 17 and wounded more than 50, including some adults.
Sociologists say those attacks reflect a failure to diagnose and treat mental illness, along with anger and frustration among people who feel victimized by China's high-stress, rapidly changing society.
Experts say the frequency of the attacks and the choice of schoolchildren as the main victims suggest a copycat element.
Parents' fears have led at least one martial arts studio in Beijing to market self-defense training for students.
On Wednesday afternoon, more than a dozen children of mostly elementary school age gathered at the Chang Zhen Martial Arts Center in Beijing and practiced defending themselves with book bags, umbrellas, notebooks and their bare hands.
"It's fun," said Amanda, a tiny 8-year-old with a bobbed haircut.
The 90-minute class ended with a mock classroom attack. Holding high a lightweight knife with a dull blade, instructor Zheng Yibian charged into the middle of the room and pretended to start swinging.
The giggling, shrieking children threw book bags, umbrellas and a water bottle at him and ran out the door.
One mother, university professor Shen Caiyi, said the class can at least give her 7-year-old son more confidence.
"You can't always rely on others to protect you," she said.