BEIJING, Aug 10 (Reuters) - Olympic organisers vowed to tighten security in central Beijing on Sunday after an American tourist died in a stabbing attack, but they insisted the Chinese capital was safe and Western sightseers were unfazed.
“We are going to strengthen the security at scenic spots ... to make sure no sharp weapons can be brought into the area,” Beijing Olympic spokesman Wang Wei told a news conference.
“Beijing is a safe city but unfortunately we are not immune to violent acts,” he said, adding that there was no reason to believe the attack was targeted on Americans.
Chinese President Hu Jintao expressed regret during a meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush for Saturday’s unprovoked attack at the Drum Tower, a popular tourist spot.
“I would like to express my heartfelt sympathy to you and the family of the victims over this unfortunate incident,” Hu said, adding that investigations had been launched.
Todd Bachman was fatally stabbed, his wife Barbara suffered multiple lacerations and their attacker, an unemployed Chinese man, then leapt to his death from the 45-metre (148-foot) tower.
Barbara Bachman was in a critical but stable condition on Sunday after undergoing eight hours of surgery, while a tour guide who was also injured in the attack was out of danger.
Police have said the attacker, Tang Yongming, 47, from the eastern city of Hangzhou, had no previous criminal record and they had no idea what his motive was.
VOLLEYBALL TEAM “DEVASTATED”
The Bachmans are the parents-in-law of the New Zealand-born coach of the U.S. men’s volleyball team, Hugh McCutcheon. Their daughter was a member of the U.S women’s volleyball team in Athens four years ago.
The men’s volleyball team took to the court Sunday, beating Venezuela 3-2 without McCutcheon on the bench. “We are absolutely devastated by what has occurred, for their loss and for everything they are going through,” the team said in a statement. With 500,000 overseas visitors expected in Beijing for the Olympics, the murder is an embarrassment for China which has been a pains to highlight the security steps it is taking.
However, foreign tourists sightseeing in a rainy Tiananmen Square on Sunday 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.
The U.S. government said that over the past year incidents of violence against foreigners, including sexual assaults, had taken place, usually in urban areas near bars and nightclubs.
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 U.S. Embassy in Beijing said the attack on the Bachmans appeared to be “a senseless act of violence”.
"This appears to be an isolated act with no connection to the Olympics," it said in a statement. "We have no reason to believe that the assailant targeted the victims as American citizens." (Additional reporting by Simon Evans, Belinda Goldsmith and Paul Majendie; Editing by Nick Macfie) (For more stories visit our multimedia website "2008 Summer Olympics" here; and see our blog at blogs.reuters.com/china)