After noon on February 27, a man boarded bus no. 237 in Guiyang and ignited a barrel of gasoline on fire. The fire killed six and injured 35. Yesterday, a man surnamed Su was arrested for allegedly causing the arson. Su is alleged to have caused the fire because he believed his wife was having an affair.
Bus arson is apparently a fashionable way for Chinese men to “take revenge on society” by attempting murder and/or suicide. A brief history of recent bus arsons:
Aug. 9, 2013: Kunming arson attempt fails
A man from Guizhou surnamed Xiong was arrested after he allegedly poured gasoline on the floor of the bus and attempted to start a fire. The fire was unsuccessful and the passengers evacuated the bus unharmed.
June 7, 2013: Poor old man kills 47 in Xiamen
59-year-old Chen Shuizong, who had been petitioning the government to provide him with social security benefits, started a fire during rush hour on a Xiamen bus that killed 47 and left 34 hospitalized. On Chen’s microblogging account, he complained about being destitute.
July 21, 2010: Failed businessman kills 2 on Changsha airport shuttle
Chen Haitao, age 36, started a fire on the shuttle bus from Huanghua International Airport to Changsha city because he “blamed his business failure on social injustice.” Chen survived the fire and was executed in December 2010.
July 4, 2010: Steel worker kills 24 fellow workers in Wuxi
Dong Chuansheng, an employee of the Xuefeng Steel Company, started a fire on a bus transporting Xuefeng Steel workers in Wuxi. 24 people, including Dong, died and 19 were injured. A spokesman for the local police said that Dong started the fire because of a grudge.
June 2009: Gambling addict kills 27 in Chengdu, injures 74
Zhang Yunliang, a 62-year-old gambling addict from Suzhou died in a suicide-arson on a Chengdu bus that killed 27 and injured 74 after his family reduced financial support to him. Zhang’s body was found next to a petrol can. Zhang lost his job in 2006 and had been relying on his family’s support to fund his gambling habit and visits to brothels. He sent a suicide note to his family the day before that said he would “die in a different way.”
Buses have also sometimes been the target of bombings by Xinjiang terrorist groups. In February 1997, an organized bombing of three buses in Xinjiang killed nine and injured 74. But in the recent history, it appears that resentful men with personal grievances seem to be the main perpetrators of bus arsons.
China has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, at 22.23 per 100,000 people in 2011. The suicide rate for men, however, isn’t quite has high in China as it is in America. China is one of the few countries in the world where the suicide rate of women is higher than that of men. Men are more likely to commit murder-suicide. Because guns are banned in China, psychopaths have to turn to other means to commit mass murder, and China’s overly crowded buses are an easy target.
In many cases of bus fires (intentional and unintentional) and other accidents, overcrowding has been cited as one of the problems leading to a high death toll. The Guiyang case was no different. Nanjing’s Jinling Evening News wrote in the print edition of their Chinese-language paper, “The nation is lagging behind on policies to limit the overcrowding of buses. Drivers ordinarily fit as many people on as they can. With buses packed to the hilt, it is hard for riders to detect a problem, and if a fire starts, it is hard to save lives.”
At the same time, no one wants to wait to long for a bus.
Overnight bus accidents, such as one in 2012 that killed 36, have also been a cause for concern in China.