Two buses exploded in the southwestern Chinese city of Kunming during the morning rush hour today, state media reported. The blasts, which occurred about an hour apart, killed two and injured 14 in the Yunnan provincial capital. A police official told the AFP that according to preliminary investigations the cause of the blasts was “deliberate sabotage.” Police checkpoints have now been set up on major roads around the city and the province, state media reported.
The blasts come at a time when the country is ramping up security ahead of the Olympics. In Beijing, police have stepped up patrols, guards are subjecting subway passengers to more stringent checks and anti-aircraft missiles have been set up outside Olympic venues. The government, Interpol and the U.S. State Department have all warned about the possibility of terrorist attacks during the Games. The resulting clampdown has left the city feeling paranoid at times.
Authorities say incidents like an attempted attack on a flight from the western Xinjiang region to Beijing in March show the seriousness of the threat. Xinjiang is home to the Uighur minority group and a long-running independence movement, which security officials blamed for the attempted attack.
Monday’s explosions are not the first bus blasts this year. In May an explosion on a Shanghai bus killed three people. Police linked the blast to a man who brought a large amount of gasoline on board, though no further information has been released.
In the past few weeks some areas of the country have been hit by unrest, the sort of incidents which also could contribute to a deliberate attack. Large scale rioting was touched off in the southern province of Guizhou when residents of Weng’an rejected the official explanation of the death of a young girl. Yunnan has also seen violence. This weekend two people were killed and 54 were injured in clashes between police and protesters at a rubber plant. The province’s name means “south of the clouds,” and what happens there usually feels far removed from Beijing. Kunming is 1,300 miles away, one of the most distant major Chinese cities from the capital. Yet it seems likely that the reverberations from Monday’s blasts will soon be felt here as well.