Suspect arrested in connection with knife attack on 4 Iowa college professors in China, police say – WSVN 7News | Miami News, Weather, Sports

Hong Kong (CNN) — A suspect has been arrested in connection with the stabbing of four lecturers at a US university in a public park in the northeastern Chinese city of Jilin, police said Tuesday.

Authorities identified the suspect, surnamed Cui, a 55-year-old man from Longtan District. Police said he “collided with a foreigner while walking” in Beishan Park, a popular green space in downtown Jilin.

The suspect then allegedly stabbed both the instructors and a Chinese tourist who stepped forward and tried to stop him during the incident, a police statement said.

Police said they received the call at around 11:49 a.m. local time on Tuesday. They then sent police officers to the scene of the accident and took the injured man to the hospital for further treatment.

“All of the injured are currently receiving medical treatment and their lives are not in danger,” police said earlier, adding that the case was being investigated.

Faculty members at Cornell College, a private liberal arts college in Mount Vernon, Iowa, were injured Monday “in a serious incident” while participating in a partnership program with Beihua University in the northeastern Chinese city of Jilin, the college said.

“We have been in touch with all four faculty members and are supporting them during this time,” Cornell College President Jonathan Brand said in a statement, adding that no students participated in the program.

In footage purporting to show the aftermath of the attack in daylight, which emerged on Chinese social media on Monday but was quickly censored, two men and a woman can be seen lying on the ground covered in large bloodstains, surrounded by onlookers.

As the video shows, they were apparently conscious and talking on the phone.

CNN located video of the attack in Beishan Park, a popular green space in downtown Jilin, less than a half-hour drive from Beihua University. Monday was a holiday in China.

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

“The police initially assumed that this was an isolated case and are currently conducting further investigations,” ministry spokesman Lin Jian said at a regular press conference.

Iowa State Rep. Adam Zabner told CNN that his brother, David Zabner, was one of the victims of the stabbing.

Rep. Zabner said his brother, who was visiting China with Cornell for the second time, was “doing well” and “had stitches and appears to be recovering” after speaking with him Tuesday morning Beijing time.

The other three victims survived the attack, said Rep. Zabner, but added that he could not comment on their health conditions.

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

“My family hopes that my brother will return home and get well as soon as possible. And we would like to thank the U.S. State Department for all its help, and also our federal delegation from Iowa, who have been especially helpful.”

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

“Terrible attack”
Knife attacks are not uncommon in China, as weapons are strictly controlled. The country has experienced a number of knife attacks in public places, including schools and hospitals. However, public attacks on foreigners are rare.

The attack in Jilin on Monday came as China tries to roll back international visitors after three years of strict Covid-19 border controls. It also came amid efforts to promote educational exchanges with the United States as the two countries seek to stabilize their strained relations.

The incident has drawn attention and concern from politicians and policymakers in Iowa, with the state’s governor, Kim Reynolds, calling it a “horrific attack.” Iowa Rep. Ashley Hinson, who represents the district where Cornell College is located, said college staff were “brutally stabbed” and vowed to “do everything in our power to bring these Iowans home safely.”

On China’s heavily censored social media, images and discussions about the attack have been quickly deleted since Monday. By midday Tuesday, censorship appeared to have been relaxed somewhat, allowing some comments to surface.

Some Chinese netizens called the incident “horrific,” while others questioned why Chinese media did not report on the attack. Some also raised concerns about the potential impact on China’s global image and the willingness of foreigners to visit the country amid growing nationalism and anti-American sentiments.

At its press conference on Tuesday, the Chinese Foreign Ministry sought to allay concerns that the attack could affect educational exchanges between China and the United States.

“The implementation of people-to-people and cultural exchanges between China and the United States is in the common interest of both sides and has received active support and resonance in various sectors of both countries,” said spokesman Lin.

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

Study connections
Cornell College entered into a partnership with Beihua University in 2018. Under the partnership, the Chinese institution provides funding for faculty members from the University of Iowa to travel and live in China for two weeks at a time and teach part of a course in computer science, mathematics and physics, according to information posted on the college’s website at the time.

China is trying to strengthen its education cooperation with the United States, but it has suffered significant setbacks due to the Covid pandemic and bilateral tensions.

During a visit to the United States in November, Chinese President Xi Jinping announced that his country would invite 50,000 young Americans to China over the next five years as part of exchange and study programs to strengthen people-to-people relations between the two countries.

The Chinese leader referred to his own enduring ties to the state of Iowa in his announcement. Xi stayed with a host family in Iowa during his first visit to the United States nearly four decades ago, an experience he described as “unforgettable.”

Last week, in a letter to the president of Kean University in New Jersey, which has a China-based joint venture with Wenzhou University, Xi encouraged universities in China and the United States to “strengthen exchanges and cooperation,” according to state media.

China has one of the lowest violent crime rates in the world, due in part to its strict gun controls and extensive mass surveillance.

Nevertheless, mass attacks in public places continue to occur. In May, two people were killed and 21 others injured in a knife attack at a hospital in the southwestern province of Yunnan.

Last year, six people were killed and one injured in an early morning stabbing attack outside a kindergarten in the southern province of Guangdong. And in 2022, a stabbing attack, also at a kindergarten, in the eastern province of Jiangxi killed three people and injured six.

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