A mob of angry parents lynched a book salesman and badly injured four of his colleagues after rumors spread that the men were part of a human smuggling ring, the official Xinhua agency said late Monday.
The attack at the Chumen Primary school, in prosperous eastern Zhejiang province, occurred in the early morning as the group handed out leaflets about a lecture to be given nearby, the agency quoted a police official as saying.
After gossip spread that a gang was trying to ensnare the young pupils, parents surrounded the group and set upon them until police intervened. One man died in hospital and the others were undergoing treatment, Xinhua said.
Hundreds, perhaps thousands, of children go missing in China each year, seized by roving criminal gangs to serve as props for beggars or for sale to childless couples.
Estimates are difficult to come by, though the Ministry of Public Security reported investigating 2,566 potential trafficking cases last year.
Traditional patriarchal values in poor, rural communities mean many families see nothing wrong in buying a kidnapped boy.
Boys, particularly toddlers, can fetch 30,000 yuan ($4,400) on the black market. Girls fetch much less, around the equivalent of $500, according to media reports.