4 college instructors injured in brutal stabbing attack

Tuesday, June 11th, 2024 14:15 | By
An illustration of a police crime scene. PHOTO/Pexels.
An illustration of a police crime scene. PHOTO/Pexels.

Four US college instructors teaching in China have been stabbed while visiting a busy public park, in a rare case of violent crime against foreigners in the powerful security state.

The educators from Cornell College, a private liberal arts college in Mount Vernon, Iowa, were wounded ‘in a serious incident’ on Monday, June 10, 2024, while participating in a partnership program with Beihua University in the city of Jilin, in northeastern China, according to the college.

“We have been in contact with all four instructors and are assisting them during this time,” Cornell College President Jonathan Brand said in a statement, adding no students took part in the program.

Footage purportedly showing the aftermath of the daylight attack, which emerged on Chinese social media but was swiftly censored, showed two men and a woman lying on the ground covered in large blood stains, surrounded by onlookers.

They appeared conscious and were talking on their cell phones, the video showed.

CNN geolocated the video of the attack to Beishan Park, a popular green space in Jilin city centre, less than half an hour’s drive from Beihua University. Monday was a public holiday in China.

China’s Foreign Ministry confirmed Tuesday, June 11, 2024,  that four foreign teachers at Beihua University were attacked while visiting Beishan Park in Jilin on Monday morning, June 10, 2024, adding they were immediately taken to hospital and did not suffer life-threatening injuries.

“The police initially determined that the case was an isolated incident and are currently under further investigation,” ministry spokesperson Lin Jian told a regular news conference.

Details of the attack, including the motive and the identity of the assailant or assailants, remained unclear on Tuesday, June 11, 2024. Iowa state representative Adam Zabner told CNN his brother, David Zabner, was one of the victims of the stabbing.

Image used for representation. PHOTO/Pexels
Image used for representation. PHOTO/Pexels

Rep. Zabner said his brother, who was on his second visit to China with Cornell, is “doing well” and has “been stitched up and seems to be recovering,” after speaking to him on Tuesday morning Beijing time.

The other three victims survived the attack, Rep. Zabner said, adding he could not comment on their health status.

“I’m just extremely grateful that my brother is OK and that he survived this attack,” he told CNN.

“The hope of my family is to get my brother back home as soon as possible and get them healthy. And we really just want to thank the US State Department for all their help, and also our federal delegation from Iowa who have been particularly helpful.”

The US State Department said it was aware of reports of a stabbing incident in China and is monitoring the situation.

Horrifying attack

Knife attacks are not uncommon in China, where guns are tightly controlled. The country has faced a spate of stabbing rampages in public places including schools and hospitals. But public attacks against foreigners are rare.

The attack in Jilin comes as China has been seeking to draw back international visitors following three years of stringent Covid-19 border controls. It also comes amid efforts to boost educational exchanges with the United States as the two countries look to stabilize their fraught relationship.

The incident has drawn attention and concern in Iowa from officials and lawmakers. The state’s Gov. Kim Reynolds called it a “horrifying attack.” Iowa Rep. Ashley Hinson, who represents the district where Cornell College is located, said the college employees “were brutally stabbed” and vowed to “do everything in our power to bring these Iowans home safely.”

On China’s heavily censored social media, visuals and discussions about the attack have been swiftly erased since Monday. Censorship appeared to have relaxed somewhat by noon Tuesday to allow some comments to surface.

Some Chinese internet users called it a “terrible” incident, while others questioned why Chinese media was not reporting on the attack. Some also expressed concerns about its potential impact on China’s global image and the willingness of foreigners to visit the country, amid a rise in nationalism and anti-American sentiment.

At its news conference, China’s Foreign Ministry sought to dismiss concerns that the attack would affect educational exchanges between China and the US.

“Carrying out people-to-people and cultural exchanges between China and the United States is in the common interests of both sides and has received active support and response from various sectors in both countries,” said Lin, the spokesperson.

“China is widely recognized as one of the safest countries in the world. China has always taken effective measures and will continue to take relevant measures to effectively protect the safety of all foreigners in China.”

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