Four teachers from US college stabbed in China

From: www.ft.com

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Four teachers from a US college were stabbed in an attack in north-eastern China on Monday, according to Chinese and US officials.

The victims were participating in an exchange programme organised by Beihua University in the city of Jilin and Cornell College, a small liberal arts college in Iowa. 

The attack took place in a park near Beihua’s campus. Video footage on social media showed three people lying on the ground and bleeding profusely as they called for help with a crowd of Chinese people gathered around.

The incident comes as the US and China try to ease tensions after relations hit rock bottom last year. Following his summit with President Joe Biden in San Francisco in November, President Xi Jinping said he wanted to invite 50,000 Americans to study in China over five years. There are currently fewer than 1,000 US students in China.

“I am angered and deeply troubled by the stabbing of 3 US citizens + a non-citizen resident of Iowa in Jilin,” Nicholas Burns, US ambassador to China, wrote on X. The fourth person was an Indian national, according to two US officials.

US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said the Biden administration was “deeply concerned” by the incident and wished the victims a quick recovery.

“Our team has been in touch [with] these Americans and our PRC [People’s Republic of China] counterparts to ensure that the victims’ needs are met, and appropriate law enforcement steps are being taken,” Sullivan wrote on X.

Footage and discussion of the attack were censored in China, which has become customary for sensitive issues or acts of large-scale violence. Nationalist commentator Hu Xijin wrote on Chinese social media that he hoped the victims “would get prompt medical attention and be well”. The post later disappeared.   

China’s foreign ministry said police believed the attack was an isolated incident, and that an investigation was under way. Spokesperson Lin Jian added that all of the injured were rushed to a hospital and received proper medical treatment. None of them was in a critical condition.

“China is universally recognised as one of the safest countries in the world,” said Lin, adding that the incident would not “affect the normal conduct of cultural and people-to-people exchanges between China and the US”. 

“The Chinese side has always taken effective measures and will continue to do so to genuinely protect the safety of all foreigners in China,” Lin added.

Jilin police on Tuesday evening said they had arrested a 55-year-old man, surnamed Cui. They said Cui had bumped into a foreign national while walking in the park and then stabbed the foreigner and three others, as well as a Chinese tourist who tried to stop him.

Iowa governor Kim Reynolds said she was in touch with the state department “in response to this horrifying attack”. 

Iowa has a special relationship with China because Xi spent time in the rural state as a lower-ranking official. Terry Branstad, a former Iowa governor, also served as US ambassador to China during the administration of Donald Trump.

Iowa state representative Adam Zabner said his brother David Zabner, a PhD student at Tufts University, was one of the victims.

On the Chinese social media site Zhihu, one post about the attack was still visible as of Tuesday afternoon. Some users questioned whether Chinese state media’s repeated stoking of anti-foreign and anti-US sentiment could have led to the attack.

“Every day they are criticised in the media, and now action has been taken,” wrote one user in Guangdong province.

Additional reporting by Nian Liu in Beijing