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Japanese mother and child stabbed in China in front of school bus

A Japanese woman and her child were among three people stabbed by a man on Monday in front of a school bus at a bus stop in eastern China, according to Japanese authorities.

The mother and child did not suffer life-threatening injuries and were taken to hospital to receive care, the official said.

The Japanese consulate in nearby Shanghai said “a man, possibly Chinese” attacked the mother and her child with a knife.

In a statement Tuesday, police in Suzhou said they arrested an unemployed 52-year-old suspect at the scene, identified by his surname Zhou.

A Chinese national who tried to stop the knife attack was critically injured and was still fighting for their life, police said. One of the injured Japanese nationals had been discharged from hospital, police added.

“The investigation of the case is ongoing, and the criminal behavior will be severely punished in accordance with the law and regulations,” the statement said.

China’s Foreign Ministry on Tuesday expressed regret over the stabbing and vowed to take effective measures to protect foreigners’ safety in the country.

“Such isolated incidents may happen in any country in the world,” spokesperson Mao Ning told a regular news briefing.

Attacks against foreigners are rare in China, but Monday’s stabbing is the second such incident this month in the powerful security state, after four instructors from a US college were stabbed by a Chinese man at a park in the northeastern city of Jilin.

A Chinese tourist who tried to intervene in that June 10 attack was also stabbed, but no one suffered life-threatening injuries, according to police. The 55-year-old suspect in the Jilin attack was arrested but police have not revealed his motive.

In Suzhou, the attack took place Monday afternoon as the mother waited to pick up her child at a bus stop near a Japanese school, according to the Japanese official.

Two buses were at the bus stop at the time of the attack, a woman who was at the scene waiting to pick up her son told Japanese public broadcaster NHK.

She said she heard shouting near one of the buses then saw a man, who appeared to be in his 50s or 60s, grab a boy and swing toward him while holding knife, NHK reported.

The school bus is from the Suzhou Japanese School, located less than a mile from the bus stop in an area where many Japanese nationals live, NHK said. The region hosts many manufacturing plants for Japanese companies.

The bus attendant and parents at the scene subdued the attacker using an umbrella and a bag, according to NHK.

Knife attacks are not uncommon in China, where guns are tightly controlled. The country has faced a spate of stabbing rampages in public places in recent years, including schools and hospitals.

“Recently, stabbings have been reported in public places (parks, schools, subways, etc.) throughout China,” the Japanese consulate in Shanghai said in a statement, urging Japanese nationals in the country to be aware of their surroundings in a warning echoed by Japan’s Embassy in Beijing.

The attack was initially censored on Chinese social media, with search results for “Japanese school” on X-like platform Weibo heavily filtered to allow only posts from official accounts on Tuesday morning.

By Tuesday afternoon, the censorship appeared to have relaxed after China’s Foreign Ministry commented on the incident.

China’s strictly censored social media platforms have seen a rise in ultra-nationalism and anti-Japanese sentiment in recent years. Rooted in Japan’s brutal invasion of China during World War II, Chinese public sentiment against Japan has waxed and waned – often tied to China’s domestic politics and the state of bilateral ties.

But as Chinese nationalism turns more aggressive and intolerant under the leadership of Xi Jinping, Japanese schools in China have faced growing criticism and suspicion. In recent months, some online posts and videos have called for Japanese schools to be shut down in China, while others accused the schools of being breeding ground for spies.

Opened in 2005, the Suzhou Japanese School offers six-year elementary school and three-year junior high school curriculums, according to its website. Its rules state that students must be picked up by a parent or guardian from the school bus.

The school was closed Tuesday following the attack, and security has been stepped up at other Japanese schools across China, NHK reported.

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