Man held after four US instructors stabbed in China

Four US instructors from a small Iowa university have been wounded in a stabbing attack in a public park in northeast China's Jilin province, prompting an investigation into the attacker's motive, Chinese officials say.

The alleged assaults occurred shortly before noon on Monday at a park in Jilin City, police said.

A 55-year-old local man, identified only by his surname Cui, was detained the same day.

"Cui collided into a foreigner while walking in Beishan Park, and then stabbed the foreigner and three fellow foreigners with a knife, as well as a Chinese tourist who tried to stop him," Jilin City police said on social media, adding the victims' injuries were not life-threatening.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Lin Jian said on Tuesday that police believed it was a random attack but authorities were still investigating.

"All the injured individuals were immediately taken to the hospital and were given appropriate critical care," Lin said.

The ministry said the incident would "not affect normal people-to-people exchanges between China and the United States" and that it would take measures to ensure the safety of foreigners in China.

US officials expressed dismay over the attack, and the State Department said it was in touch with local authorities and monitoring the situation.

"We are deeply concerned by the stabbing of US citizens in Jilin City, China," White House National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan wrote on X on Tuesday.

"Our team has been in touch these Americans and our PRC counterparts to ensure that the victims' needs are met, and appropriate law enforcement steps are being taken," he said, referring to the initials for the People's Republic of China.

"We wish them a speedy recovery."

Officials have not released the names of the victims.

Representative Adam Zabner of the Iowa Legislature said his brother was one of the victims from Cornell College in Mount Vernon, about 24km east of Cedar Rapids.

"My brother, David Zabner, was wounded in the arm during a stabbing attack while visiting a temple in Jilin City, China," he said in an interview with Reuters.

"I spoke to David ... He is recovering from his injuries and doing well. My family is incredibly grateful that David survived this attack."

The group had been visiting a temple in Beishan Park when they were attacked by a man with a knife, he added.

"I am angered and deeply troubled by the stabbing of 3 US citizens + a non-citizen resident of Iowa in Jilin, China," US ambassador to China Nicholas Burns wrote on X, adding that a US consular officer had visited the four in the hospital on Tuesday.

A video of people lying on the ground in a park covered in blood was circulating on X on Monday, apparently taken at the scene of the attack, although no trace of the images could be found on Chinese social media.

Reuters was able to identify the location of the video based on Chinese characters written on a wall, the wall's structure and the layout of the path but it was not able to confirm when the video was shot.

A few posts about the incident on the Chinese social media platform Weibo questioned widespread censorship of the incident in official media.

"Do they really think that censoring domestic discussion of the incident impacts whether foreigners choose to visit China or not?" posted one Weibo user.

The educators from Cornell College, which has about 1000 students, were on a teaching exchange program with a partner university, Beihua, in Jilin City, about 1000km northeast of Beijing.

The Chinese school's website says it has 31 teaching colleges and about 24,000 students, including about 500 international students from 60 countries.

According to a 2018 news release, Cornell College's exchange program started that year as a partnership between the Iowa school and the Chinese Ministry of Education.

The ministry provided money for Cornell instructors to live in China in exchange for teaching at Beihua University for several weeks at a time.

The instructors taught computer science, mathematics and physics, the release said.