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China park stabbing: suspect detained after isolated attack on US instructors

China park stabbing: suspect detained after isolated attack on US instructors
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The Chinese foreign ministry has confirmed that four instructors from an Iowa college were attacked in a park in the northeastern province of Jilin on Monday, but said it was an isolated incident and played down concerns over the impact on bilateral relations.

Ministry spokesman Lin Jian told the regular Tuesday afternoon press conference that police were investigating after the Americans, from Cornell College, were stabbed in a park in the province’s Jilin city.

Lin said initial investigations had concluded that it was an “isolated incident [that] would not affect the normal development of China-US cultural exchanges”.

The 55-year-old attacker, a local man surnamed Cui, had been detained, Jilin city police said in a statement on Tuesday afternoon.

The attack happened on Monday morning as Cui was walking in Beishan Park and “collided with a foreigner, then stabbed the foreigner with a knife and three other foreigners who were with him”, the statement said.

“The injured have all received proper medical treatment and are not in life-threatening conditions. The case is under further investigation,” the statement added.

A Chinese tourist who tried to stop the attack was also injured, police said.

The US State Department said earlier that it was monitoring the situation, which was previously confirmed by Cornell College president Jonathan Brand, in a statement to Associated Press.

According to one of the victims’ family members, speaking to Iowa Public Radio, the instructors were recovering in a local hospital and none are in a life-threatening condition.

CNN reported on Tuesday that the injured included David Zabner, the brother of Iowa state representative Adam Zabner.

Jilin city is home to Beihua University, which has had a cooperative relationship with the private academy since 2018, according to Cornell’s website.

A State Department spokesperson said on Tuesday that the department was aware of reports of the incident, was monitoring the situation and had “no further comments at this time”.

The motive for the attack is not clear. Videos and photos circulating on social media showed four injured foreigners lying on the ground, with police and bystanders nearby.

Nearly all the images and discussion of the incident have since been removed in China, where social media platforms are heavily censored.

The park where the stabbing is alleged to have occurred is 1km (just over half a mile) from government offices. An officer at the nearest police station said on Tuesday that he had “no comment” when asked about the incident.

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Four US college instructors stabbed in a park in Jilin, China

Four US college instructors stabbed in a park in Jilin, China

Hu Xijin, the outspoken former chief editor of nationalist newspaper Global Times, said on social media platform X that he “condemned” the attack.

“Regardless of the attacker’s motive, this incident is an isolated case in the broader context of Chinese society,” he said, adding that the public’s “general sentiment toward foreign tourists in marketplaces and tourist spots [in China] is friendly”.

Iowa Governor Kim Reynolds said in a post on X that she was in contact with Iowa’s federal delegation and the US State Department “in response to this horrifying attack”.

Also on X, US Representative Mariannette Jane Miller-Meeks from Iowa said “we are working through proper channels and requesting to speak with the US embassy on appropriate matters to ensure that the victims first receive quality care for their injuries and then get out of China in a medically feasible manner”.

According to the Cornell College website, Beihua provides funding for Cornell professors to spend two weeks in China teaching courses, including computer science, mathematics and physics.

Monday was a public holiday in China, when many people travel. Beishan Park, where the attack took place, is a popular tourist attraction in Jilin city, home to about 4 million people.

The attack came as China is trying to attract foreign tourists back to the country after strict Covid-19 controls were eased.

Measures introduced by Beijing include visa-free arrangements for tourists from more countries and easier mobile payments and hotel services.

The incident came amid efforts by Beijing and Washington to ease tensions in their technological and ideological competition through cultural exchanges.

In November, President Xi Jinping said China was ready to invite 50,000 young Americans for exchanges and study in the country over the next five years.

The outreach followed an agreement between Xi and US President Joe Biden to promote expanded educational, student, youth, cultural, sports and business exchanges, reached during their summit in California last year.

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