News / Asia

8 Suspects Sought Following Tiananmen Square Crash

Reports: Chinese Officials Suspect Xinjiang Link to Beijing 'Attack'i
October 30, 2013 2:55 AM
Reports from Beijing say Chinese authorities believe a car crash that killed five people in Beijing's Tiananmen Square on Monday was a deliberate act by people from the troubled region of Xinjiang, home to a mostly Muslim Uighur minority. A spokesman for the main exiled Uighur opposition group tells VOA it is premature to blame the incident on Uighurs. He also warns that Beijing may use this to justify a policy of suppressing the Uighur people - an allegation China denies. VOA's Michael Lipin reports
Reports: Chinese Officials Suspect Xinjiang Link to Beijing 'Attack'
Chinese police are looking for eight suspects in connection with a car crash that killed five people this week in Beijing's symbolic Tiananmen Square.

Staff at several Beijing hotels said Wednesday police have warned them to be on the lookout for eight men who appear to be from the troubled northwest region of Xinjiang.

Hotel staff say seven of the men have names commonly given to Uighurs, a mostly Muslim minority that has long complained of religious persecution. They say the other name was that of a majority Han Chinese suspect.

Details of the crash in Chinese media have been scarce, but foreign media have reported officials believe it was a suicide attack by people from Xinjiang.

Two days later, security remained tight in the capital. Though Tiananmen Square has been reopened, police appear to have increased their checks on license plates of cars in and around Beijing in response to the crash.

Site of Tiananmen Square crashSite of Tiananmen Square crash
Site of Tiananmen Square crash
Site of Tiananmen Square crash
The crash occured when a sports utility vehicle veered off a road, drove through a pedestrian area and crashed in flames near the main entrance to the Forbidden City - one of China's most heavily guarded public spaces.  The dead included the vehicle's three occupants and two tourists - a Philippine woman and a Chinese man. Thirty-eight bystanders were injured.

Xinjiang province, ChinaXinjiang province, China
Xinjiang province, China
Xinjiang province, China
China has long accused Uighur separatists and Islamic militants of carrying out a series of attacks in Xinjiang in recent years, in an effort to establish an independent state called East Turkestan.

Exiled Uighur leaders reject accusations of Uighur involvement in terrorism.  They accuse China's majority Han rulers of persecuting their people and turning them into a minority in their homeland.

A spokesman for main opposition World Uyghur Congress told VOA via Skype it is too early to conclude whether the Beijing incident was an attack.  Alim Seytoff also denounced the apparent targeting of Uighurs by Beijing police, whose notice identified four Xinjiang license plates allegedly used by the two suspects.

"I think it is really seriously unfair to single out the Uighurs [by] basically informing hotels and other places to search for several Uighurs and the car tags from Xinjiang, because lots of [Han] Chinese people from Xinjiang drive Xinjiang-tagged cars," said Seytoff.

It is not clear if the two suspects were among those killed in the sports utility vehicle or possible conspirators in a wider plot.  China analyst Christopher Johnson of the Washington-based Center for Strategic and International Studies said he believes police are looking for more potential assailants.

  • A man installs a security camera  at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Nov. 1, 2013, very close to the site of a fatal vehicle crash in which five people died.
  • Soldiers and a policeman stand guard at Xinhuamen Gate, the main entrance of the Zhongnanhai leadership compound, the residence of Chinese President Xi Jinping, located in the center of Beijing, Oct. 31, 2013.
  • A paramilitary soldier patrols near visitors posing for souvenir pictures at Tiananmen Square, Beijing, China, Nov. 1, 2013.
  • A man installs a security camera at the Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Oct. 31, 2013.
  • Vehicles travel along Chang'an Avenue as smoke raises in front of a portrait of late Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Oct. 28, 2013.
  • Crowds react to a car accident at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Oct. 28, 2013. (Image taken from weibo)
  • Wounded people are seen after a car accident at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Oct. 28, 2013. (Image taken from weibo)
  • Security it seen after a car accident at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Oct. 28, 2013. (Image taken from weibo)
  • Chinese paramilitary police and uniformed police seal off pavement leading to Tiananmen Gate, following a car fire in Beijing, Oct. 28, 2013.
  • Police officers set up barriers in front of the giant portrait of the late Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong as they clean up after a car accident at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Oct. 28, 2013.
  • A police officer walks in front of the giant portrait of the late Chinese Chairman Mao Zedong as other police clean up after a car crash at Tiananmen Square in Beijing, Oct. 28, 2013.

"The thing that's really interesting to me is the possibility that the Chinese authorities are concerned that there might be either follow-on or other attacks that might occur here, and that's got to be alarming for the authorities," said Johnson.

Johnson said China may be holding back from blaming Uighurs for Monday's incident because of the sensitivity of acknowledging that an attack happened in a place such as Tiananmen.  He also said the Chinese government may be waiting until it establishes an "iron-clad" case of culpability for the crash.

China denies mistreating any of its minority groups, saying they are guaranteed wide-ranging religious and cultural freedoms.

Some information for this report was contributed by Reuters.

Michael Lipin

Michael covers international news for VOA on the web, radio and TV, specializing in the Middle East and East Asia Pacific. Follow him on Twitter @Michael_Lipin

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Comment Sorting
by: Sun from: Taipei
October 30, 2013 3:02 AM
Until when can the government of PRC repress such movements of minority races? They are claiming just for freedom. I wish all Han nationals, minority races, and other tribes in China can obtain at least freedom. Let's stop repressing other people (races and trives) and let's form an earthly paradise on this globe!
In Response

by: Anonymous
October 30, 2013 8:35 AM
repressing?give me an example,please。if you have no examples,please shut up。i hate rumor mongers like you

by: Abel Ogah from: Oju Benue state Nigeria
October 29, 2013 4:05 AM
Barbaric ! Whatever their greivances are, these attackers recorded more dead than the attacked.
In Response

by: Dive from: Beijing
October 29, 2013 10:05 AM
even if it like this,there still are so many governments treat them are "democracy fighter",so satire.

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