BEIJING (Reuters) - Olympic organizers vowed to tighten security in central Beijing on Sunday after a U.S. tourist was killed in a stabbing attack.
Police released new details of the Chinese man behind the seemingly random attack on Saturday in which Todd Bachman, father-in-law of the U.S. men’s volleyball team coach, was killed and his wife was wounded. The man committed suicide afterwards.
The attacker -- a homeless, jobless, twice-divorced man -- had no previous criminal record and “acted out of despair over personal failures”, the official Xinhua news agency quoted police as saying.
“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 there was no reason to believe the attack was targeted at Americans.
Tang Yongming, 47, a former factory worker from the affluent eastern city of Hangzhou, vacated a rented house on August 1. He called his 21-year-old son, sentenced to six months’ jail for theft with a one-year suspension, and told him he was leaving but would return once he had made a success of himself.
Tang urged his son to stay out of trouble, Xinhua said.
“Tang had lost all hope after a series of failures in his life and took his anger out on society,” the agency quoted police as saying from Tang’s home town in Zhejiang province.
Chinese President Hu Jintao expressed regret during a meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush for the attack at Beijing’s 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,” said Hu, adding investigations had been launched.
Bachman’s wife Barbara was in a critical but stable condition on Sunday after undergoing eight hours of surgery, while a tour guide who was also wounded in the attack was out of danger.
U.S. 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.
”We are absolutely devastated by what has occurred, the U.S. men’s volleyball team, who beat Venezuela 3-2 without McCutcheon on the bench, 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.
But 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,” said Canadian tourist Linda Heathcott from Calgary.
The crime rate is relatively low in China, where serious offences carry the death penalty. Attacks on foreigners are rare.
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”.
“We have no reason to believe that the assailant targeted the victims as American citizens,” it said in a statement.
(Additional reporting by Simon Evans, Belinda Goldsmith, Edwin Chan and Benjamin Kang Lim; Editing by Ralph Gowling)