4 instructors from Iowa college stabbed in China in 'horrifying attack,' officials say

Instructors from Cornell College in Iowa were visiting a partner institution.

June 11, 2024, 9:38 AM

LOS ANGELES and HONG KONG -- Four instructors from Cornell College in Iowa were stabbed in a "serious incident" while overseas in China, university and Chinese officials said.

A Chinese official said on Tuesday that the instructors had been "attacked while sightseeing" in Beishan Park, Jilin City, China, on Sunday.

"All the injured were immediately sent to the hospital and received proper treatment. None of them are in danger of life," said Lin Jian, spokesperson for the foreign ministry. "The police initially determined that this case was an isolated incident and is currently under further investigation.”

A 55-year-old suspect "collided" or "bumped into" one of the instructors and then proceeded to attack that instructor and three others with a knife, the Jilin Public Security Bureau said Tuesday. A Chinese tourist was also injured and the suspect was arrested, police said.

Cornell College has a partnership with Beihua University and the instructors were accompanied by a local faculty member when the incident occurred, the university said.

PHOTO: Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa.
Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa.
Google Maps Street View

Iowa state Rep. Adam Zabner confirmed to ABC News that his brother, David Zabner, was one of the four stabbing victims. In a post on Instagram, Adam Zabner said he spoke to his brother by phone and that he is "doing well" as he recovers from a stabbing wound to the arm.

Adam Zabner said his brother is a Ph.D. student at Tufts University and was in China as part of a teaching program between Cornell College and Beihua University.

"My family is incredibly grateful that David survived this attack. We'd like to see David home in lowa as soon as possible," Adam Zabner said in the Instagram post. "We're deeply thankful to the state department and lowa's federal delegation and understand that they are working hard to make that happen. We also appreciate the support of friends and family who have reached out in the last 24 hours."

David Zabner, a PhD student at Tufts University in China in Jilin City, was among four Americans stabbed on June 9, 2024, in a Jilin City, according to his family.
David Zabner, a PhD student at Tufts University in China as part of a relationship between Cornell College in Mount Vernon, Iowa, and Beihua University in Jilin City, was among four Americans stabbed on June 9, 2024, in a Jilin City, according to his family.
Zabner Family

Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds released a statement on X Monday, saying she's been in contact with Iowa’s federal delegation and the state department "in response to this horrifying attack."

"Please pray for their full recovery, safe return, and their families here at home," Reynolds wrote.

In a statement, the Department of State said it was "aware of reports of a stabbing incident in Jilin, People's Republic of China."

"We are monitoring the situation and have no further comments at this time," the department's statement read.

PHOTO: Tourists walk past a gateway with the name "Beishan" seen at the Beishan Park in northeastern China's Jilin province on Jan 23, 2020.
Tourists walk past a gateway with the name "Beishan" seen at the Beishan Park in northeastern China's Jilin province on Jan 23, 2020.
Zhu Wanchang/AP

Lin, the Chinese official, said cultural exchanges such as the one the instructors were undertaking were "in the common interests" of the U.S. and China.

"China has always taken effective measures and will continue to take relevant measures to effectively protect the safety of all foreigners in China," Lin said. "The sporadic cases will not affect the normal development of Sino-US cultural exchanges."

Cornell College is a private liberal arts college in Mount Vernon, Iowa.

ABC News' Darren Reynolds contributed to this report.

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