4 American college instructors injured in stabbing attack in China

HONG KONG — Four American instructors from a small Iowa college were injured in a stabbing attack while on a teaching trip to China, their school and U.S. officials said.

The four instructors from Cornell College, a private liberal arts college in Mount Vernon, Iowa, were injured “in a serious incident” during a daytime visit to a public park, the school’s president, Jonathan Brand, confirmed in a statement.

They were accompanied by a faculty member from the school’s Chinese partner institution, Beihua University, during the attack in the northeastern Chinese city of Jilin.

Brand said the school had been in contact with all four and was assisting them.

A spokesperson for the State Department said U.S. officials were aware of the reports and monitoring the situation but declined to comment further.

As of midday Tuesday local time, there were no statements on the incident from Chinese authorities.

Iowa State Rep. Adam Zabner confirmed that his brother, David Zabner, was among the victims. He said his brother had stitches from being stabbed in the arm and remained hospitalized but was doing well and in good spirits.

David Zabner, a graduate student at Tufts University who is an alumnus of Cornell College and previously lectured there, had participated in the exchange program before and returned this year, Adam Zabner said.

Details on the condition of the other victims, who have not yet been publicly identified, were unclear. It was also unclear whether the teachers had been targeted or were attacked randomly.

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds said on X that she was in touch with Iowa’s federal delegation and the State Department in response to “this horrifying attack.”

Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said on X that she and her team were in touch with Cornell College and the State Department and “praying for a speedy recovery for all.”

Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Iowa, whose district includes Mount Vernon, said in a statement that she was trying to get in touch with the U.S. Embassy to ensure the victims are able to leave China as soon as possible after being treated for their injuries.

The attack took place as the U.S. and China, the world’s two largest economies, are promoting people-to-people exchanges as part of an effort to improve overall bilateral relations. U.S. officials are considering easing a Level 3 travel advisory for mainland China, its second-highest warning level, in part over concerns that it could be discouraging such exchanges.

During a visit to the U.S. last November, Chinese President Xi Jinping said Beijing was ready to invite 50,000 young Americans to China on exchange and study programs in the next five years.

The number of Americans studying in China has dropped off sharply in the last decade, particularly during the country’s three years of pandemic isolation. There are currently almost 300,000 Chinese students in the United States, while there are fewer than 900 Americans studying in China, according to U.S. data.

Though China has some of the world’s strictest gun control laws, knife attacks are not uncommon.

Chinese state media, which often report on Chinese nationals who are the victims of violence in the U.S., were quiet on the stabbing attack, though “Jilin” was trending on social media platform Weibo on Tuesday.

Prominent Chinese commentator Hu Xijin, former editor-in-chief of the state-backed nationalist tabloid Global Times, said he hoped it was an isolated incident that would not “negatively impact the exchange of personnel between China and other countries.”

“Our people are generally very friendly towards foreign tourists appearing in markets and tourist attractions,” he said in a Weibo post. “Regardless of the assailant’s motive in this incident, it is an isolated case within the broader context of Chinese society.”

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