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Suspect Arrested in Reuters Beijing Incident - 2003-03-12

A man claiming to have a bomb took over the Beijing office of the Reuters news agency Wednesday. The staff was eventually released unharmed, and a few hours later, police captured the suspect. The man appears to be one of China's millions of frustrated jobless workers.

Witnesses say a well-dressed man in his 30's entered the Reuters news office carrying a bag with wires hanging out of it. One of the wires had a red button or trigger device on it.

Most of the staff fled, but four correspondents and a photographer were trapped in the office for about two hours.

Beijing Police spokesman Liu Wei says the office was evacuated safely after a few hours. A few hours after that, the man was captured and hustled out of the offices.

He identified the suspect as Fang Qinghui from Heilongjiang province in China's northeast. He is a former driver at a steel plant who has been out of a job for five or six years. Heilongjiang province is plagued by collapsing state-owned companies and high unemployment.

Mr. Fang asked the British news agency's correspondents to interview him on television about corruption among Chinese officials.

In the interview, he urged the government to respect, protect, and love workers. He also said he had been wrongly diagnosed as mentally ill.

China's shift from a planned economy to a market-oriented one has seen tens of millions of workers lose their jobs at state-owned companies. Not enough private-sector jobs are being created to accommodate all those who need work.

Fighting unemployment and poverty is a top priority at China's annual legislative session, which is now under way in Beijing. The ruling Communist Party fears the country's high unemployment could lead to social unrest, which could threaten the party's control.