In the third such attack in three months, six people were injured Tuesday in a knife attack at the main railroad station in Guangzhou.
Guangzhou police said late Tuesday that there was only one assailant, who was shot and arrested, but witnesses earlier in the day described as many as four men who they said were positioned in different parts of the station.
Witnesses described attackers as being dressed in white and wearing white caps, often worn by Muslims, but it was unclear if they were Uighurs, the minority implicated in the earlier train station attacks.
According to accounts in the state press, the attack took place at 11.30 a.m., when a man wielding a 15-inch-long knife ambushed passengers who were emerging from a train from Kunming. Perhaps coincidentally, Kunming was the location of a March 1 knifing attack in which 33 people were killed.
"We just came out of the station. We were taking pictures in the square of the train station and all of a sudden, two attackers came out with big knifes like you use to cut watermelons,'' a woman identified as Liu Yuying was quoted telling a news service.
A shopkeeper told a Guangzhou newspaper said that he had seen a man sitting outside his store for hours, who suddenly pulled a long knife from his bag and began screaming as he tried to slash people, apparently at random. The shopkeeper said he saw the man stab a pedicab driver.
Among the six injured, a woman was said to be in critical condition while others had wounds mainly to the arms and hands.
Although the toll wasn't large, the attack in Guangzhou, one of China's largest cities with a population of 16 million, is likely to terrify people already unnerved by the earlier attacks.
Last week, China experienced one of its first suicide bombings directed against civilians when two men with briefcases blew themselves up at the train station in Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang region that is home to the Uighur minority. The men, identified as Uighurs, also were armed with knives.
In the statement late Tuesday, Guangzhou police said they had not been able to identify the assailant who carried no documents and was undergoing surgery.
In the wake of the knifing attacks, Chinese beat cops have begun carrying guns in many large cities. Yangcheng Daily, a Guangzhou newspaper, reported that 4,000 special police armed with guns began patrolling on Thursday. Many Chinese were critical of the police in Kunming for not responding more robustly to the March knifing attack.