Four visiting college instructors from Iowa were brutally stabbed in an attack in China on Tuesday morning. 

The educators from Cornell College, in Mount Vernon, were on a teaching exchange program with a partner university, Beihua, in Jilin City.

The group had been visiting a temple in Beishan Park when they were attacked by a man with a knife. There were no reports of a motive. 

Iowa Representative Adam Zabner told Reuters his brother was one of the victims from Cornell College in Iowa. The other victims have not yet been publicly identified.

Police have launched a manhunt for Cui Dapeng, a Jilin City resident whom they have identified as a ‘major suspect’ in the stabbing, according to the Chinese government.

Four visiting instructors from Cornell College were brutally stabbed in an attack in China on Tuesday morning. The teachers had been on a teaching exchange programme with a partner university, Beihua, in Jilin City

Four visiting instructors from Cornell College were brutally stabbed in an attack in China on Tuesday morning. The teachers had been on a teaching exchange programme with a partner university, Beihua, in Jilin City

David Zabner, pictured, was wounded in the arm during the stabbing attack, according to his brother Iowa Representative Adam Zabner

David Zabner, pictured, was wounded in the arm during the stabbing attack, according to his brother Iowa Representative Adam Zabner

Zabner described his brother as a doctoral student at Tufts University who was in China under the Cornell-Beihua relationship. 

‘My brother, David Zabner, was wounded in the arm during a stabbing attack while visiting a temple in Jilin City, China,’ he said. 

‘I spoke to David…he is recovering from his injuries and doing well. My family is incredibly grateful that David survived this attack.’

A video of people lying on the ground in a park covered in blood was circulating on X on Monday, though 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 US State Department spokesperson said in an emailed statement that they were aware of reports of a ‘stabbing incident’ in Jilin, China, and were monitoring the situation. 

‘We are working through proper channels and requesting to speak with the US Embassy on appropriate matters to ensure that the victims first receive quality care for their injuries and then get out of China in a medically feasible manner,’ Iowa’s Congress representative Mariannette Miller-Meeks wrote on X. 

Police have launched a manhunt for Cui Dapeng, (pictured) a Jilin City resident whom they have identified as a 'major suspect' in the stabbing, according to a WeChat alert issued by China's Foreign NGO Management Office of the Ministry of Public Safety

Police have launched a manhunt for Cui Dapeng, (pictured) a Jilin City resident whom they have identified as a ‘major suspect’ in the stabbing, according to a WeChat alert issued by China’s Foreign NGO Management Office of the Ministry of Public Safety

China’s Foreign NGO Management Office of the Ministry of Public Safety issued an alert on social media platform WeChat confirming the incident, which they say took place Monday around 11.40am in Beishan Park.

The notice identified Dapeng as the alleged suspect in the case, with the public safety department advising the brief be distributed to all police forces. Officials encouraged that Dapeng be arrested if found.

The notice also alleged that the victims had suffered ‘varying degrees’ of injuries and were taken to hospital. Their conditions are non-life threatening, according to the government agency. 

‘The police have preliminarily judged that this was a random incident but an investigation is ongoing,’ China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Lin Jian told reporters at a daily briefing on Tuesday.

‘All the injured individuals were immediately taken to the hospital and were given appropriate critical care, no one’s life is in danger,’ Lin said.

China’s foreign ministry said it would continue taking effective measures to ensure the safety of foreigners in China.

News of the incident was suppressed in China, where the government maintains control on information about anything considered sensitive. News media outlets had not reported it. 

Some social media accounts posted foreign media reports about the attack, but a hashtag about it was blocked on a popular portal and photos and video of the incident were quickly taken down.

 A few remaining posts 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 were from Cornell College, a private college in Mount Vernon, Iowa (pictured). The college has had a partnership program with Beihua, in Jilin City, since 2018

The educators were from Cornell College, a private college in Mount Vernon, Iowa (pictured). The college has had a partnership program with Beihua, in Jilin City, since 2018

The educators from Cornell College, a private college in Mount Vernon, were on a teaching exchange program with a partner university, Beihua, in Jilin City.

Jen Visser, the spokesperson for Cornell College, said the institution was still gathering information about what happened.

Cornell President Jonathan Brand sent a statement to students, KCCI reported, reading in part: ‘We have learned that four Cornell instructors teaching as part of a partnership with a university in China were injured in a serious incident during a daytime visit to a public park while accompanied by a faculty member of the partner institution.

‘We have been in contact with all four instructors and are assisting them during this time. There were no students taking part in this program.’

A college news release from 2018, when the partnership program started, says Beihua provides funding for Cornell professors to travel to China to teach a portion of courses in computer science, mathematics and physics over a two-week period.

According to a 2020 post on Beihua’s website, the Chinese university uses American teaching methods and resources to give engineering students an international perspective and English-language ability.

About one-third of the core courses in the program use UStextbooks and are taught by American professors, according to the post. Students can apply to study for two years of their four-year education at Cornell College and receive degrees from both institutions.

Xi Jinping, then-Vice President of the People's Republic of China sits, with Sarah and Roger Lande (R) February 15, 2012 in Muscatine, Iowa. In 1985, Lande helped coordinate a visit to Muscatine for a delegation headed by Xi, then an up-and-coming official in a hog-farming region of Hebei province, which was Iowa's 'sister state'

Xi Jinping, then-Vice President of the People’s Republic of China sits, with Sarah and Roger Lande (R) February 15, 2012 in Muscatine, Iowa. In 1985, Lande helped coordinate a visit to Muscatine for a delegation headed by Xi, then an up-and-coming official in a hog-farming region of Hebei province, which was Iowa’s ‘sister state’

China’s President Xi Jinping this year pledged to invite 50,000 young Americans to China for study programs to boost people-to-people ties, but a State Department Level 3 travel advisory – the second-highest warning level – to mainland China.

Citing arbitrary detentions as well as exit bans that could prevent US citizens from leaving the country, the State Department has urged Americans to ‘reconsider travel’ to China.

Some American universities have suspended their China programs due to the travel advisory.

Lin, the Foreign Ministry spokesperson, said China has taken effective measures to protect the safety of foreigners.

‘We believe that the isolated incident will not disrupt normal cultural and people-to-people exchanges between the two countries,’ he said.

There are currently fewer than 900 American exchange students studying in China compared to over 290,000 Chinese students in the United States, according to US data. 

Jinping has a longstanding relationship with Iowa after having first travelled to the state in May 1985 as part of an agricultural delegation.

He has since maintained a nearly four-decades long pen pal relationship with native Sarah Lande, who helped coordinate the exchange. 

Chinese state media in January published an excerpt from a letter he had recently written 85-year-old Lande, in which he claimed the world’s future demanded stability in Sino-US ties.

‘China and the United States are the largest developing and developed countries in the world, and the future and destiny of this planet require Sino-US relations to be more stable, to be better,’ Xi wrote to Lande.

The two became acquainted when Xi, then 31, led a delegation from China’s northern Hebei province to its ‘sister state’ Iowa to learn about US food production. 

In 2012, they reunited in her hometown of Muscatine, and once more in San Francisco in November 2023, when Lande attended a dinner hosted for Xi.

In a previous letter to Lande in 2022, he told her and his ‘old friends’ in Iowa to ‘continue sowing the seeds of friendship and make new contributions to the friendship between the Chinese and American peoples’.



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