US university instructors ‘brutally stabbed’ in busy Chinese park

Four US tutors at a university in north-eastern China have been stabbed in a busy public park, in a rare instance of violent crime in the country.

The four instructors were visiting from Iowa’s Cornell College and teaching at Beihua University in Jilin in northeastern China when they were attacked, according to officials at the US State Department and the college.

Footage taken from the apparent aftermath of the attack showed two men and a woman lying on the ground covered in blood stains, speaking on their phones and surrounded by onlookers.

Jonathan Brand, president at Cornell College, said the instructors were attacked while at the park with a faculty member from Beihua University.

The State Department said it was aware of reports of a stabbing and was monitoring the situation.

The extent of their injuries is not yet clear and whether the attack was targeted or random are not yet clear, though CNN quoted a spokesperson for China’s foreign ministry saying it was an “isolated incident”.

ITHACA, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 3: People walk through the Cornell University campus on November 3, 2023 in Ithaca, New York. The university canceled classes after one of its students is accused of making violent antisemitic threats. (Photo by Matt Burkhartt/Getty Images)
Cornell University in Mount Vernon, Iowa, is a partner instution with Beihua University (Photo: Matt Burkhartt/Getty Images)

Ministry spokesperson Lin Jian confirmed on Tuesday that “four foreign teachers at Beihua University were attacked” while visiting Beishan Park in Jilin on Monday morning.

The four instructors were taken to hospital and did not suffer life-threatening injuries, Mr Jian added.

News of the incident was meanwhile suppressed in China, with many news media outlets not reporting it. Some social media accounts posted foreign media reports about the attack, but the Associated Press reported that a hashtag about it was blocked on a popular portal.

Ashley Hinson, a Republican Congresswoman for Iowa, said the four “were brutally stabbed” and vowed to “do everything in our power to bring these Iowans home safely”.

Jen Visser, spokesperson for Cornell College, said in an email that the college was still gathering information on what happened.

Cornell, a private college in Mount Vernon, Iowa, partners with Beihua University, which provides funding for Cornell professors to travel to their campus to teach computer science, mathematics and physics.

Beihua university uses American teaching methods and resources to give engineering students an international perspective and some English learning experience, according to a 2020 post on the Chinese university’s website.

Around one third of the core courses on that programme use US textbooks and are taught by American professors.

Students at Beihua can also apply to study for two of their four-year degree at Cornell College, and receive degrees from both universities.

Chinese President Xi Jinping has unveiled a plan to invite 50,000 young Americans to China in the next five years, though Chinese diplomats say that travel advice from the US State Department discouraged Americans from visiting China.

Citing arbitrary detentions as well as exit bans that could prevent Americans from leaving the country, the State Department has issued a Level 3 travel advisory – the second-highest warning level —-for mainland China. It urges Americans to “reconsider travel” to China.

Some American universities have suspended their China programmes because of the travel advice.