Four US college instructors teaching in China have been stabbed while visiting a public park, US officials have said.

The tutors from Cornell College in Iowa were at the park in Jilin province, north-eastern China, with a faculty member from Beihua University on Monday when the attack occurred, the college president Jonathan Brand said in a statement. The private college in Iowa partners with the university near Jilin City.

Police in Jilin said on Tuesday that they had arrested a 55-year-old man, whose surname is Cui, who was suspected of being responsible for the attack. Cui had “collided” into one of the Americans before attacking the group, injuring the four instructors and a Chinese person who stepped in to help, according to the police.

The police said that the injuries were not life-threatening.

Iowa state representative Adam Zabner told US media that his brother, David Zabner, was one of the group visiting a temple in Beishan park when a man with a knife attacked them. David Zabner “was wounded in the arm during a stabbing attack while visiting a temple in Jilin City, China,” he told Reuters, and was recovering in hospital.

“I spoke to David a few minutes ago, he is recovering from his injuries and doing well. My family is incredibly grateful that David survived this attack,” Adam Zabner added.

A video of people lying on the ground in a park covered in blood were circulating on X on Monday, though no trace of the images could be found on Chinese social media.

Reuters identified the location based on background information in the footage but was not able to confirm when the video was shot.

The state department said it was aware of reports of a stabbing and was monitoring the situation.

The Iowa governor, Kim Reynolds, wrote on X that she was in touch with the US state department about the “horrifying” attack, adding: “Please pray for their full recovery, safe return, and their families here at home.”

Representative Ashley Hinson of Iowa wrote online: “Horrified that multiple Cornell College faculty members were brutally stabbed in China. My team has been in communication with Cornell College and will do everything in our power to bring these Iowans home safely.”

A US Representative, Mariannette Jane Miller-Meeks of Iowa, said she was trying to reach the US embassy to ensure the victims got good health care and returned to the US as soon as possible.

The attack happened as both Beijing and Washington are seeking to maintain people-to-people exchanges to prevent bilateral relations from deteriorating.

The Chinese president, Xi Jinping, has unveiled a plan to invite 50,000 young Americans to China in the next five years, but Chinese diplomats say a travel advisory by the US state department has discouraged Americans from going to China.

Citing arbitrary detentions as well as exit bans that could prevent Americans from leaving the US, the state department has a level 3 travel advisory – the second highest warning level – for mainland China, urging Americans to “reconsider travel” there. Some American universities have suspended their China programmes because of the travel advisory.

There are fewer than 900 American exchange students studying in China compared with more than 290,000 Chinese students in the US, according to US data.

With Associated Press and Reuters

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