‘Terror’ in Tiananmen Square: Beijing Police Nab 5 Suspects

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Beijing police today confirmed what many had started to suspect: what happened in Tiananmen Square on Monday was no accident. In a statement posted online Wednesday, Beijing police said they have five suspects in custody for the fiery wreck that killed five and injured 38 in central Beijing. For the first time, officials used the word terror to describe what happened, calling it “a carefully orchestrated, organized and premeditated terrorist attack.”

(MORE: Photos of Disappear After Car Strikes Crowd at Tiananmen Square, Killing 5)

On Monday at 12 p.m. a light-colored SUV barreled through a crowd of pedestrians at the north end of Beijing’s Tiananmen Square and exploded into flames just feet from the portrait of Chairman Mao. The police statement identifies the driver of the vehicle as Usmen Hasan and says his wife and mother were with him. “Gas, knives, iron rods” and “religious extremist banners” were found at the scene. Five additional suspects were later arrested “with the help of Xinjiang police,” the police said, and one has since confessed.

If what happened was, as China claims, a deliberate act of violence in the heart of the capital, it does not bode well for ethnic relations here. The People’s Republic of China officially recognizes 55 minority groups, including about 10 million Uighurs, a Turkic Muslim ethnic group based in the Silk Road cities of the country’s vast northwest. Most live in what is now called the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region — a misnomer, critics say, since the area is effectively under Beijing’s thumb.

(MORE: A Brief History of the Uighurs)

Calls for greater autonomy are a perennial source of conflict between Xinjiang’s Uighurs and the ruling Chinese Communist Party. Some Uighurs resent the influx of Han Chinese migrants to the land they call East Turkestan, feel left out of the region’s economic boom, and complain that their language, religion and culture are threatened by Beijing. China’s government counters that it has brought prosperity to the region and regularly warns of a rising tide of religious extremism. Chinese police recently arrested more than 100 people for spreading “jihadist sentiment” online. Twenty-two Uighurs were held by the U.S. at Guantánamo Bay.

Over the past few years, the region has convulsed with violence. In 2009, nearly 200 people, both Han and Uighur, were killed in the regional capital, Urumqi. In April, 21 died in another grisly round of attacks. Most recently, in June, 27 died in Xinjiang’s Shanshan county, which, according to a police memo released Monday, is home to one of the suspects. Anger runs deep on both sides.

(MORE: After Deadly Riots, Ethnic Tensions Heat Up in Urumqi)

Of course, with the driver and his family dead, we may never know what transpired in the vehicle as it sped toward the square. China has thus far maintained a tight grip on the story, staying silent for three full days and pulling eyewitness accounts from the Web. We still know little about the perpetrators, and even less about the victims. With the censors in full swing and a legal system that operates at the behest of the ruling party, it may take weeks, or years, before the facts of the case are known.

Meanwhile, the Uighur community is bracing for a backlash. In a statement released Wednesday, World Uyghur Congress president Rebiya Kadeer, an exile China holds in contempt similar to the Tibetan Dalai Lama, expressed her sorrow for the victims and also her fear that the purported acts of a few could result in a regionwide crackdown. “Today, I fear for the future of East Turkestan and the Uyghur people more than I ever have,” she said.

— With reporting by Gu Yongqiang / Beijing

MORE: Tearing Down Old Kashgar: Another Blow to the Uighurs

5 comments
Cristin16475201
Cristin16475201

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Liberty_Bell
Liberty_Bell

I know, Governments in the west are beholden to China with debts , But I am so surprised how many people are sold on Chinese State Propaganda and Praising China.Xinjiang is Uyghurland which was invaded by Han Chinese in 1949. Now most Uyghurs accept to live under Chinese Rule. but that was not enough for the Chinese. The region was flooded by Hans to change the demography of the region, so they can have a firm hand. To do so, they gave so many preferential treatments to Hans to come, at the result, they discriminated local uyghurs to access Jobs and resources. Uyghurs are treated as second class. Every jobs and government position goes to only Hans, discriminating Uyghurs on Jobs, denying hotel or extra monitoring common place in China. Uyghur culture and Language is also treated as state enemy. At the result, Uyghurs become so marginalized, jobless, powerless and frustrated. As long as Han Racism and Nationalism will not be stopped, it is hard to avert this vicious cycle of hatred and Revenge. As African American resisted white supremacy and Nelson Madela led the fight apartheid and racial injustice. Dire frustration will make some crazies to act irrationally. Terrorism should be condemned at all level, but only racial justice and equality will solve the problem once for all.

Liberty_Bell
Liberty_Bell

Racial discrimination and Hatred against Uyghurs by Han Nationalism should not stand and should be condemned! All the jobs, privileges are only going to Hans in Xinjiang, they are killing Uyghurs like insects on the streets of Urumqi, Kashagr and Aksu. Uyghur language , Culture and identity is treated like a state enemy. This is nothing to do with the religion. This is about racial injustice and dire frustration.

Only thing I can compare this situation is holocaust against Jews! Brainwashed Nazi Germans believed that all the problems of Germany was caused by Jewish ethnicity, only solution was to exterminate them. That is exactly what is happening to Uyghurs. They are helpless, weak, discriminated, their lands,jobs. language are taken away from them. Similar Hilter tactics are being used to distract Han Chinese from real problems in China and increase their nationalism and racial hatred. 
I am not Buddhist, but I believe in Karma, Chinese Government and brainwashed, nationalist and racist Han Chinese will pay price by God for what they have done to Uyghur and Tibetans , Just like Germans did.

World Should be concerned, just what happened in Auschiwtz did not stay in Germany, what happened in Xinjiang will not stay in Xinjiang. Philippine, Japan, Vietnam and all others get ready for Chinese nationalism and imperialism to come your doors.

rorywong654
rorywong654

Watch out for the USA and Japanese,they are the main financier of this terror groups

duduong
duduong

China has ruled Xinjiang on and off for over 2100 years; the latest stretch started 150 years ago. Throughout this history, China did not once massacre the locals or drive them into desert reservations. To this day, Uighur own the land and their resentment focuses on the Hans who can afford to pay for shops in the cities. Compared this with the efficient ethnic cleansing and land grab by the Americans, no wonder China is in so much trouble there, and yet the American media manages to make China appear the bad guy.

China has so much to learn from the US.