Olympics-Tourists unfazed by fatal attack in Beijing

BEIJING Sun Aug 10, 2008 12:09am EDT

BEIJING Aug 10 (Reuters) - Western tourists sightseeing in a rainy Tiananmen Square on Sunday were unfazed by a fatal attack on an American tourist in Beijing, saying it could happen anywhere in the world.

Todd Bachman was fatally stabbed and his wife Barbara suffered multiple lacerations in an unprovoked attack around noon on Saturday at the Drum Tower, a popular tourist spot. Their Chinese attacker then leapt to his death from the tower.

With 500,000 overseas visitors expected in Beijing for the Aug 8-24 Olympics, the murder comes as an embarrassment for China which has been a pains to highlight the security steps it is taking. But tourists were not concerned about their safety.

"It is tragic for the family concerned but it won't change our plans. This really could happen anywhere," Canadian tourist Linda Heathcott from Calgary told Reuters.

The crime rate is relatively low in China where serious offences carry the death penalty and attacks on foreigners are rare.

But the U.S. and British governments have warned in online travel advisories that crime against foreigners is on the rise as breakneck economic growth brings a widening wealth gap.

The Ministry of Public Security reported 4.75 million criminal cases in 2007, up from around 2 million in the 1990s, with the majority robberies and burglaries. It does not give a breakdown on how many crimes were against foreigners.

The U.S. government said over the past year incidents of violence against foreigners, including sexual assaults, have taken place, usually in urban areas near bars and nightclubs.

"Robberies, sometimes at gunpoint, have occurred in western China and more recently in Beijing," it said.

FEELING SAFE

But most tourists were confident of their safety in Beijing.

Austrian tourist Michael Dojacek from Vienna said he felt safe with so many police and soldiers on duty in the streets.

"But I am going to be staying with my tour group though as it is when you go off on your own you could get trouble," he said.

Students Julia Tsybulevskaya from Rostov, Russia, and Naveed Anjum from Abbottabad, Pakistan, said they never felt unsafe walking around Beijing, even late at night.

"In Moscow there is no way I would walk at night as I do here," said Tsybulevskaya.

The motive for the attack on the Bachmans, the parents-in-law of the New Zealand-born coach of the U.S. men's volleyball team, Hugh McCutcheon, was unknown.

Police have said the attacker, Tang Yongming, 47, from the eastern city of Hangzhou, had no previous criminal record.

Barbara Bachman was in a critical but stable condition in hospital on Sunday after eight hours of surgery. (Additional reporting by Benjamin Kang Lim)

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