Kunming railway station attack
On March 1, 2014, dozens of commuters were killed and more than a hundred others injured when a gang of knife-wielding attackers rampaged through Kunming railway station in Yunnan province, China. Authorities blamed "separatist forces from Xinjiang" for the deadly attack. Four of the alleged assailants were shot dead by police at the scene.
‘I hate them for killing my baby’: Mum stabbed in Kunming faces reality of having to abort her child
At hospitals across Kunming, victims and their families tell of their ordeal
When Tang Xiaoquan, 23, entered the Kunming railway station on March 1, she was a happy mother-to-be, likely eager to show her sixth-month baby bump to a friend she was picking up that day.
Now, after the brutal knife attack left her grievously injured, she is reduced to a petite body beneath a tangle of medical tubes and IV drips, confronting the painful reality that she will have to give up her first child.
The medicines being pumped into her veins, while helping her recover from the stabbing that punctured her liver, are at the same time harmful to her child, according to doctors at the Third People’s Hospital of Yunnan Province.
Speaking in a weak whisper, her lips dry, Tang says she spent the past 72 hours alone, fighting for her life, after one of the assailants plunged a knife in her.
“I was stabbed on the right side of my back,” she said. “The doctor told me my liver was punctured. I was rushed to the hospital and the doctor sewed my liver up.
“I was only sitting there, waiting for my friend. Suddenly I was stabbed in the back but I didn’t feel anything except shock.
“The next thing I saw was a man sitting across from me being stabbed in the heart, and he fell over. I ran for my life towards the crowds without feeling the pain,” Tang said.
“The attackers were randomly stabbing people with long, sharp knives. Then I realised blood was dripping from me on the floor. I lost a lot of blood and began blacking out and feeling dizzy,” she said.
“A man was kind enough to carry me to an ambulance.”
At the end of the nightmare, 33 people were dead and 140 injured.
But Tang remains adamant that her family should not know of her real condition so they would not worry or rush to the hospital and see her in this state.
Tang says her fiancé, who works at a construction site in rural Kunming, only knows that she has a “minor injury”. “I told him I’m wounded but not to worry as I only injured my arm, so they wouldn’t need to rush up amid the mess to see me,” Tang said.
She also has not disclosed the full extent of her injuries to her mother in Nanning, Guangxi province, which is 812 kilometres’ drive to the east from Kunming in Yunnan province.
Nor has she told them she has made the painful decision to terminate her pregnancy.
The doctors’ priority is keeping the mother alive above all. As for her baby, Tang said: “The [doctors] told me my baby has a good heartbeat, but they don’t update me much.”
Watch: Eyewitness recounts the knife attack
Feeling “awful, dizzy and in pain”, Tang said, “I don’t plan on keeping the baby. All the medicine they are fuelling into my blood is bad for the baby.”
Tang had no idea that stepping into that railway station would lead to such a painful choice. “It’s my first baby – of course it won’t be easy for me to let go,” she said. “I hate the attackers for killing my baby. But whatever happened has already happened and I must learn how to face it.
“At least I’m still alive,” she said, “much luckier than many others who lost their lives.”
‘My husband’s chest was sliced open’
At the Kunming People’s No 1 Hospital, Li Jinmei, 32, was waiting for news about the condition of her 40-year-old husband Pan Huabing, 40, who stepped in front of the attackers’ knives to shield his daughter from the attack.
Pan, a construction worker, was being treated at the heart surgery unit. “There is not a single scratch on my daughter but his chest was chopped open,” Li said. “The doctors say he is still in critical condition.”
Li said the family got separated during the chaos.
“We just got off the train after seeing my mother-in-law in Dali and planned to buy train tickets to Guizhou to see my family. We were sitting at the temporary waiting area and suddenly we heard screaming and flocks of people running around. He was carrying my daughter and we lost each other during the mess.
“I don’t understand why would these people hurt my husband. He held no grievances or hatred towards anyone,” she said.
“I think the attackers have hatred built up against the government and they took it out on civilians.”
Elsewhere in the same hospital, 28-year-old Shi Youwu was kneeling anxiously outside the intensive care unit where his 57-year-old mother was being treated for injuries.
Shi had spent 12 hours searching different hospitals for his mother. “I saw her scarf in a pool of blood on the plaza of Kunming train station,” he said. “When I went there, she was rushed to a hospital.
“Wounded people were everywhere. I was in a total mess. I didn’t even know where to begin to look for her,” he said.
His family had been waiting to board a train to Tianjin to look for work – including his mum, who wanted to apply as a domestic helper – on the day of the attack. She was slashed on the eyebrow, neck and half her ear was sliced off.
In the end, Shi learned that his mother was brought to hospital on a public bus by his uncle.
“I really want to tell you how I feel, but I am not in the mood. Right now, I just want to sit by a quiet corner and be left alone,” he said.
Many families of the victims were being housed at hotels close to Kunming hospitals. They were also receiving assistance from the government, which was paying for medical fees and for food to be delivered to the wards.
Back at the hospital where Tang, the pregnant mum, is confined, the family of 51-year-old Pang Bin, a policeman at the train station which was the scene of the attack, were left grasping for answers on why the security officers were unarmed.
Pang was severely injured and is under intensive care.
“If he was given his guns and defensive weapons, he wouldn’t end up like this today,” said one of Pang’s relatives.