US university lecturer teaching in China attacked in a park


Chinese police have arrested a suspect in connection with a knife attack on four Cornell College in Iowa lecturers who were teaching at a Chinese university in the northeastern city of Jilin, officials said Tuesday.

Jilin city police said a 55-year-old man surnamed Cui was walking in a public park on Monday when he collided with a foreigner. He stabbed the foreigner and three other foreigners who were with him, and also stabbed a Chinese man who approached him to intervene, police said.

The Cornell College lecturers taught at Beihua University, officials from the US university said.

The injured have been taken to hospital for treatment and none of them are in critical condition, said Lin Jian, spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, at a daily press conference on Tuesday. He said police are preliminary in their assessment that the attack in Beishan Park in Jilin was an isolated incident and that investigations are ongoing.

Jonathan Brand, president of Cornell College, said in a statement that the teachers were attacked while they were in the park with a faculty member from Beihua. Beihua is in a remote part of Jilin, an industrial city about 1,000 kilometers northeast of Beijing. Monday was a holiday in China.

The Foreign Ministry said in a statement it was aware of reports of a stabbing and was monitoring the situation. The attack came as both Beijing and Washington seek to expand people-to-people exchanges to strengthen ties amid tensions over trade and international issues such as Taiwan, the South China Sea and the war in Ukraine.

An Iowa state lawmaker posted a statement on Instagram saying his brother, David Zabner, was injured in a stabbing attack in Jilin. Rep. Adam Zabner described his brother as a graduate student at Tufts University who was in China as part of the Cornell-Beihua relationship.

“I spoke to David a few minutes ago, he is recovering from his injuries and doing well,” Adam Zabner wrote, adding that his brother was grateful for the care he received at the hospital.

In China, where the government maintains control over all information deemed sensitive, news of the incident was suppressed. News media had not reported it. Some social media accounts posted foreign media reports about the attack, but a hashtag about it was blocked on a popular portal and photos and videos of the incident were quickly removed.

Cornell spokeswoman Jen Visser said in an email that the college is still gathering information about the incident.

Visser said the private college in Mount Vernon, Iowa, is partnering with Beihua University. A 2018 college press release, when the program began, said Beihua was funding Cornell professors’ trips to China to teach a portion of computer science, math and physics courses over a two-week period.

According to a 2020 post on Beihua’s website, the Chinese university uses American teaching methods and resources to provide engineering students with an international perspective and English proficiency.

About a third of the program’s core courses are taught by American professors and based on U.S. textbooks, the post said. Students can apply to Cornell College for two years of their four-year degree and earn degrees from both institutions.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has unveiled a plan to invite 50,000 young Americans to China over the next five years, but Chinese diplomats say a U.S. State Department travel warning is deterring Americans from traveling to China.

Citing arbitrary detentions and travel bans that could prevent Americans from leaving the country, the State Department has issued a Level 3 travel advisory — the second-highest level of alert — for mainland China, urging Americans to “reconsider travel to China.”

Some American universities have suspended their China programs due to the travel warning.

Lin, spokesman for China’s Foreign Ministry, said China has taken effective measures to protect the safety of foreigners. “We believe this isolated incident will not disrupt normal cultural and people-to-people exchanges between the two countries,” he said.


Tang reported from Washington, D.C. Associated Press writer Summer Ballentine in Columbia, Missouri, contributed to this report.