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Four American instructors teaching at a Chinese university were attacked

Four instructors from Cornell College in Iowa and Beihua University in northeast China were attacked with a knife in a public park, according to reports from U.S. school and State Department officials.

A spokesman for China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Tuesday that the injured were taken to hospital for treatment and that none of them were in critical condition. Based on a preliminary assessment, police believe Monday’s attack in Beishan Park in Jilin city was an isolated incident and an investigation is ongoing, ministry spokesman Lin Jian said at a daily briefing.

Cornell College President Jonathan Brand said in a statement that the instructors were attacked at the park along with a faculty member from Beihua, which is located in a peripheral part of Jilin, an industrial city about 600 miles northeast of Beijing. Monday was a public holiday in China.

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

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

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

News of the incident was suppressed in China, where the government exercises control over information considered sensitive. The media did not report about it. Some social media accounts posted reports in foreign media about the attack, but the hashtag on the subject was blocked on the popular website and photos and videos from the event were quickly deleted.

Cornell spokeswoman Jen Visser said in an email that the university was still gathering information about what happened.

Visser said the private college in Mount Vernon, Iowa, is working with Beihua University. A 2018 press release from the university when the program launched said Beihua was providing funding for Cornell professors to travel to China to teach some computer science, math and physics courses for two weeks.

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

About one-third of the core courses in the program use American textbooks and are taught by American professors, according to the post. Students can apply to college for two years of a four-year degree at Cornell College and receive 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, although Chinese diplomats say the US State Department’s travel advisory has discouraged Americans from visiting China.

Citing arbitrary detentions and travel bans that could prevent Americans from leaving the country, the State Department issued a Level 3 travel advisory – the second highest warning level – for mainland China. Urges Americans to “reconsider traveling” to China.

Some US universities have suspended their programs in China due to travel advisories.

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