At least nine people have died and dozens more are injured following a driving and stabbing attack on pedestrians by a driver in the central Chinese province of Hunan, state media reported on Thursday.
"At 19:35 on Sept. 12, a malicious case of intentional driving occurred in Lijiang Square, Hengdong county," state broadcaster CCTV reported.
A man surnamed Yang has been detained on suspicion of carrying out the attack, which killed nine people and injured 46, it cited Hengdong county officials as saying.
"Three of them were seriously injured. The injured were taken to the hospital for treatment," the report said, adding that investigations are ongoing.
Video clips from the scene showed people lying on the floor of a square with emergency lights flashing around them, and people with bleeding and traumatic injuries.
A still photo sent to RFA showed a man in a blue shirt lying in pools of blood on the ground, as staff readied a stretcher nearby.
Another clip appeared to show crowds running away from the site of the attack, across a broad city square.
Media reports later identified the attacker as Hengdong county resident Yang Zanyun, 54, who had a long history of criminal convictions related to drugs and gambling, according to a 2017 Hengdong County People's Court indictment against him, a copy of which was shown to RFA.
A local journalist who gave only his surname Chen said the authorities had quickly clamped down on any independent reporting of the incident, and media outlets had relied exclusively on syndicated copy issued by government propaganda departments.
"There are only a few local media organizations in Hunan anyway, and they're not likely to get involved in this incident, because they'll get a call from higher up," Chen said.
"Everything we have reported is based on the propaganda department and police department copy," he said. "Also, we lack access to the details of what actually happened."
Lawyer Chen Keyun said the main suspect had been sentenced a number of times, each time for a short period, which is unusual in the case of repeat offenders.
"He served very short sentences every time, almost as if they were trying to show that justice was being done," Chen said. "That's really not normal."
"This is a systemic problem, and nothing is ever done according to the law," he said. "We need to look at whether or not there were miscarriages of justice involved."
Experts have blamed growing social tensions, a widening gap between rich and poor, and associated mental health problems for a wave of recent attacks in public places, many of which have targeted young children with knives.
Two pupils at an elementary school in Shanghai died in June after a stabbing attack by a man who said he had "lost all hope," and wanted revenge on society, state media reported at the time.
In July, police detained a man who they said was slightly injured after setting off a small explosive device near the U.S. Embassy in Beijing. No one else was injured in the incident.
Reported by Wong Siu-san and Wen Yuqing for RFA's Cantonese Service, and by the Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.
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