Cleaners walk past area shielded by green nets in front of Tiananmen Gate following car crash/fire on Oct. 28, 2013.
BEIJING (USA TODAY) -- Chinese authorities named a pair of suspects from a
majority Muslim western region of the country as suspicions grew that a
deadly car crash and fire near Tiananmen Square was a terror attack.
crash at the center of the capital at lunchtime Monday plowed through
dozens of pedestrians and police, killing five people, including the
driver, two passengers, a female tourist from the Philippines and a male
tourist from Guangdong province in South China, and injuring 38 people,
Qianlong.com, a Beijing government news website, reported.
Beijing police in a notice to area hotels named two suspects from Xinjiang region in China's northwest, the Global Times, a Communist Party-run newspaper reported Tuesday. Staff at the French-owned IBIS Beijing hotel, in central Jianguomen, confirmed they had received the notice Tuesday morning.
Chinese authorities have said publicly whether the attack is terrorism, and Beijing Police declined to comment Tuesday.
unrest has plagued the region as China's majority Han people
immigrated to the area and clashed with the native Uighur people. The
Uighur, who are Muslim, have long complained about repressive rule by
Beijing. The Chinese government argues it has brought badly-needed
development, and says violent incidents there are fomented by 'hostile
Police named Yusupu Aihemaiti, 25 of
Pishan County, and Yusupu Wumaierniyazi, 43, from Shanshan County, where
Chinese authorities said rioters killed 22 civilians and 2 policemen in
June. The notice told hotel management to watch out for "suspicious"
people and vehicles dating back to October 1, and gave four license
number plates from Xinjiang.
The Beijing police confirmed to the Global Times that they had issued the notice to hotels, but did comment further.
investigation is underway, Xinhua, the state news agency, reported.
Witnesses said the car drove on the sidewalk for some distance,
injuring and scattering pedestrians. Photos posted online showed the
vehicle ablaze beside the historic bridges that lead visitors under the
famous portrait of Chairman Mao and into the Forbidden City, the former
residence of China's emperors.
deadly incident did not deter tourists from swarming Tiananmen Gate
Tuesday, a rare clear day unmarred by the heavy smog that often plagues
the city. Beijing SWAT teams stood beside armored vans at many traffic
intersections nearby, and more plainclothes security personnel than
usual stood on the historic Golden Water bridges leading into the
Forbidden City, where the jeep crashed and burned Monday.
Liu Xiaoshang, a waiter from central Hubei province, read the news
online and said he was not surprised the police were seeking suspects
"There are often violent incidents there," Liu, 20, said. "I have seen
Uighurs and I don't know why they can't resolve problems in a moderate
way, some of them are quick to use violence."
Ilham Tohti, a Uighur economics professor in Beijing, said Chinese people should not stigmatize the Uighurs because of this incident, or use it to impose even tighter controls on Xinjiang, said.
"If there's no evidence, it must not be said that this incident was
done by Uighurs, and even more so the conclusion must not be drawn that
'Uighurs engage in terror attacks'," Tohti wrote Monday on
Uighurbiz.net, a website he founded, but he added that extreme methods
by Uighurs "protecting their rights" could not be ruled out.
tightly controlled media have published little about Monday's
incident. Most Beijing papers published only short reports Tuesday from Xinhua. Foreign
media crews from the BBC, Sky News and Agence France Presse all
reported brief detentions Monday at Tiananmen Square, including forcible
deletion of images and footage.
Tiananmen Square is a big
tourist draw and the political heart of China, making it one of the
most sensitive areas in the country. Leaders of the ruling Communist
Party live and work nearby. Major party and government events take place
at the adjacent Great Hall of the People, where a national women's
congress was underway Monday.
The square is well-known as the spot
of the 1989 democracy protests, put down by force, and still draws
occasional protests quickly put down by security officials. It is often
closed before and during political anniversaries and events. Protest
groups have distributed leaflets in the square, staged civil
disobedience and have occasionally set themselves on fire, but a car
attack and deliberate fire would be a new tactic.
"I was shocked
when I heard the news from colleagues," said a traffic warden surnamed
Chen, who works close to Tiananmen Gate, where all traces of the
incident were swiftly removed Monday afternoon. "I thought this must be
the safest place in China."