Beijing appears intense after five people died and at least 38 people were injured earlier this week when an SUV ploughed through crowds in China’s Tiananmen Square, burst into flames, and crashed near the main gate of the Forbidden City.
Chinese authorities have arrested five Uighurs — Muslims from the far western region of Xinjiang — who are accused of being radical Islamists from t
he East Turkestan Islamic Movement who were planning a holy war.
China considers the incident “a violent terrorist attack which was carefully planned, organised and premeditated,” thought some experts question that account.
“If it’s a deliberate act, it’s unsophisticated,” said Joanne Smith Finley, a lecturer in Chinese studies at Newcastle University who studies Xinjiang, told Reuters. “It doesn’t carry any of the hallmarks that we would expect to see if it was something that was plotted and carefully deliberated with overseas extremists.”
Nevertheless have stepped up security around the capital, especially at Beijing’s oldest mosque for Friday prayers, and have been searching bags of anyone who looked Uighur.
Uighurs, Turkic Central Asian people related to Uzbeks, Khazaks and other groups, believe the Chinese government may be taking advantage of the situation to stifle their demands for independence.
“The Chinese government will not hesitate to concoct a version of the incident in Beijing, so as to further impose repressive measures on the Uighur people,” World Uyghur Congress president Rebiya Kadeer said in a statement.
In any case, it’s clear that Tiananmen Square, where pro-democracy protests were bloodily suppressed in 1989, is feeling the shadow of the neighbouring Forbidden city.
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