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Chinese Police Arrest Bombing Suspect - 2003-03-08

Chinese police say they have arrested a man who confessed to planting bombs last month at two Beijing universities. The attacks injured nine people just days before the annual meeting of the National People's Congress began, causing great official concern.

Police say they have 27-year-old farm worker Huang Minxiang in custody. Mr. Huang is from the southeastern Chinese city of Fuzhou, located halfway between Shanghai and Hong Kong, and he was detained there early Saturday morning.

According to officials, he confessed to setting two crude explosive devices in university cafeterias on February 25. The bombs were filled with homemade gunpowder, and went off 90 minutes apart at Peking and Tsinghua Universities, in the northeastern section of the capital.

The two institutions are elite schools. Tsinghua is noted for its engineering and technical excellence, and counts Premier Zhu Rongji and Communist Party Chief Hu Jintao among its graduates.

In a rare press conference, Police spokesman Liu Wei says it is not yet clear what the bomber was trying to accomplish or whether there was a political motivation. Mr. Liu says the investigation continues and he does not know if any other people were involved in the attacks.

He gave no indication that the bombing was linked to the current legislative session or the sweeping leadership changes underway, which will bring a new generation of leaders to power during the next two weeks.

Bombs are frequently used when disputes turn violent in China, because the government bans most private gun ownership, but does much less to regulate explosives. In the past few years, bombings have been blamed on variety of suspects, from common criminals to Muslim separatists to spurned lovers.