|Beijing points finger at Xinjiang for Tiananmen car crash, warns hotels against suspicious guests
A fatal car crash in Tiananmen Square may yesterday have links to China's restive far western region of Xinjiang, state-run media said.
The incident – in which an SUV vehicle drove along the pavement before crashing and catching fire at Beijing's best-known and most sensitive site – killed at least five people, three in the car and two tourists, according to Beijing police.
The square, opposite the Forbidden City, a former imperial palace and top tourist attraction, was the location of pro-democracy protests in 1989 that were violently crushed by authorities, AFP reports.
In a notice to local hotels, police identified two suspects and four car number plates, all from Xinjiang, in relation to a “major case'' that occurred Monday, the Global Times reported.
Police also instructed hotels to watch out for “suspicious'' guests and vehicles, said the paper, which is close to the ruling Communist party.
It only carried the details in its English-language edition, with the Chinese version not mentioning Xinjiang.
Xinjiang in China's far west is home to ethnic minority Uighurs, many of them Muslim.
State media have reported several violent incidents there and a rising militant threat, but Uighur rights groups complain of ethnic and religious repression, while information is tightly controlled.
Police have arrested 140 people in Xinjiang in recent months for allegedly spreading jihad, and killed 22 Uighurs in August in an “anti-terrorism'' operation, the official news agency Xinhua reported earlier.
Ilham Tohti, a prominent Uighur intellectual, cautioned against using the Tiananmen incident to stigmatize the ethnic group or imposing tighter controls in the region, according to the web portal Uighurbiz.net.
It cited him as saying that, without evidence to justify the claims, it should not be described as an action or a terrorist incident by Uighurs. However, he added that extreme methods by Uighurs could not be ruled out.
Witnesses and reports on Monday's incident said the SUV drove along the pavement outside the Forbidden City which lies on the north side of the square, before crashing into the crowd, prompting speculation that it was intentional.
Images posted on Chinese social media sites showed the blazing shell of the car and tall plumes of black smoke.
Several pictures were deleted within minutes, and streets leading to the square were quickly blocked off and barriers erected.