Tiananmen Square: five held over 'terrorist attack'
Chinese police arrest men in relation to 'carefully planned' attack in Beijing
UPDATE: SInce this story was published Chinese police have arrested five people in relation to what they are now calling a terrorist attack in Tiananmen Square. The men were held within hours of the "carefully planned, organised and premeditated" incident on Monday in which a car was driven into crowds of tourists before exploding near the Forbidden City. Police found petrol containers, two machetes and metal rods in the car, Xinhua news agency said.
TIANANMEN SQUARE in Beijing has returned to a kind of "paranoid normality" today after five people were killed by a vehicle that ploughed through tourists before exploding in flames near the Forbidden City. Debris from the incident has been cleared, reports The Times, but a heavy police presence in the Chinese capital confirms that authorities are concerned about further attacks. Here are five key questions about the incident:
What is the death toll?
The three occupants of the car were killed as well as two bystanders. At least 38 people were injured when the vehicle – a four-wheel drive – veered off the road at the north end of the square and ploughed into tourists. It exploded seconds later when it hit a guardrail on Jinshui Bridge on the moat of the Forbidden City. A nine-year-old British boy was knocked over by the car and his mother was "blown over" as the car exploded as she rushed to help him, the Times reports. They both suffered minor injuries. Three of the injured were tourists from the Philippines and one was from Japan, Sky News reports.
Might it have been a freak accident?
It's possible but unlikely. Users of the social media site Weibo were quick to point out the significance of Tiananmen Square as a focal point for dissent, says BBC. "Tiananmen is a political landmark... Fires in other places are local news but this is different," wrote one Weibo poster. The square was the location for the authorities' crackdown on pro-democracy protesters in 1989 and has "existed in a state of paranoia" ever since, says the Times. The fact that the vehicle crashed "a short distance from the Zhongnanhai walled compound, where President Xi Jinping lives and works is also seen as significant.
Who is believed to be responsible?
Chinese police are investigating the possibility that the occupants of the four-wheel drive were from the "volatile" Western province of Xinjiang, says the Times. Two of its occupants – a 25-year-old and a 43-year-old – are believed to be from the region where anti-Beijing sentiments are "particularly raw". One of them was from a town where 16 Uighur Muslims were shot dead in a gunfight with police earlier this year, the Times says.
Will there be more attacks?
The police seem to think that's a possibility. The police presence – both uniformed and plain clothes officers – in Tiananmen Square has been increased substantially. And authorities have asked people to be on the lookout for four other cars bearing Xinjiang-registered number-plates.
How has Chinese media reported the incident?
Sparingly. Hundreds of posts about the explosion were quickly deleted from social media sites by Chinese censors, the Washington Post reports. "Among the deleted posts were some that showed images of the burning vehicle and others that suggested the crash might have been a case of self-immolation, a widely used form of protest here," the paper says. Censors also blocked internet searches for "Tiananmen car accident" and China's state-owned news agency Xinhua only carried a brief report of the crash. The incident was not mentioned on state television's Chinese-language evening news. ·