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    Blasts Outside Communist Party Office in Northern China Kills 1

    Chinese state media say a series of small explosions outside a Communist Party office in a northern city has killed one person and injured eight others.

    The official Xinhua news agency says the small, apparently homemade, bombs went off early Wednesday outside the Shanxi Provincial Committee office in Taiyuan.

    Ball bearings and nails were found scattered at the scene, leading Xinhua to report the blasts were caused by "self-made bombs." Such materials are often used to help maximize damage to passersby.

    One witness told Xinhua he was waiting at a traffic light in front the building when saw a minivan explode. Others reported hearing as many as seven blasts. Pictures on social media showed multiple vehicles with minor damage, such as windows blown out.

    The incident comes just over a week after a deadly car crash and explosion in Beijing's Tiananmen Square that the government has blamed on Muslim separatists.

    When asked whether the two cases were related, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei said police are not sure.





    "Regarding the incident in Shanxi today, the Chinese police are still investigating it. We have determined the nature of the violent and terrorist incident on the Tiananmen Square a few days ago."



    In the Beijing incident, officials say three people from the troubled northwest region of Xinjiang ran a car into a group of tourists and set their vehicle on fire. All three people inside the vehicle and two tourists died. Dozens were wounded.

    Xinjiang is home to the mostly Muslim Uighur ethnic group, which often complains of religious and cultural persecution by the government. Clashes between Uighurs and majority Han Chinese or security forces sometimes occur, incidents Beijing refers to as terrorism.

    But Wednesday's explosion also bore similarities to past attacks by Chinese petitioners from across the country who sometimes target government buildings in an attempt to have their grievances heard.

    Johan Lagerkvist , a senior research fellow in the East Asia Program at the Swedish Institute of International Affairs, tells VOA that thousands of such protests take place every year across China.



    "They are mostly peaceful - people stage a sit-in or protest in front of a symbolic building. But when it comes to violent incidents, like the setting off of bombs and that kind of thing, they are pretty seldom. That seems to be an indication of growing tensions in Chinese society."



    Lagerkvist also points out Taiyuan was the site of violent protests last year, when striking workers who were complaining over low pay and poor conditions forced the closure of a Foxconn factory that made Apple products.

    Wednesday's incident in Taiyun was also notable because it came just days before a sensitive, four-day meeting of Communist leaders in Beijing, where they will decide on the country's economic plan for the next decade.

    And Lagerkvist says the economy plays an important part in the growing tensions between the Chinese people and their leaders.



    "When the economy doesn't look like it's going in the right direction, people are losing jobs, people become more despondent and dejected about their future."

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