A group of four educators from an Iowa college, who were providing instruction in China as part of a collaboration with a local university, were assaulted and sustained injuries in a public garden there, according to college authorities on Monday.

During a visit to the park, Jonathan Brand, the president of Cornell College located in Mount Vernon, mentioned that the educators were involved in a “serious incident”. He stated that they were accompanied by a faculty member from Beihua University, which is Cornell’s partner institution in Jilin City, northeastern China, at the time of the assault.

“We have reached out to all four educators and are providing support to them at this difficult time,” stated Mr. Brand in the official communication.

A representative from the State Department indicated that U.S. officials were keeping track of reports regarding a stabbing incident in Jilin, without providing further details.

Several specifics regarding the attack, including the condition of the educators and whether they were deliberately targeted, remained ambiguous as of Tuesday.

A video circulating on Chinese social media, supposedly filmed after the assault, depicted three individuals lying on the ground amidst a crowd. One person was visibly injured, while another seemed to be applying pressure to a wound with their hand. All three were seen using their mobile phones.

Efforts to contact Beihua University and the central police headquarters in Jilin were unsuccessful. When reached for a comment, an individual at a police station close to the park where the incident took place stated that he was not aware of the situation and therefore unable to provide details.

Jan Visser, a spokesperson for Cornell, mentioned that staff members from Beihua had been in communication with the college, although it was uncertain what information had been shared. She declined to disclose further details regarding the assault.

Senator Joni Ernst, a Republican representative from Iowa, mentioned that her office was collaborating with Cornell and the State Department to extend support to these individuals.

The collaboration between Cornell College and Beihua University commenced in 2018, as stated by Ms. Visser. A press release from 2018 mentioned that Beihua would finance travel and accommodation expenses for Cornell professors to visit China and teach subjects like computer science, mathematics, and physics over a two-week period. Cornell emphasized that its students were not part of this program, as shared by the college on Monday.

Both China and the United States have recently made efforts to strengthen their educational bonds in order to improve their strained relationship. In November of last year, China’s President, Xi Jinping, unveiled a plan to invite 50,000 young Americans for exchange and study programs over a span of five years.

Mr. Xi has a personal connection to Iowa, as he resided with a host family in the state in 1985 as part of an agricultural exchange program.

Reporting contributed by Olivia Wang.