Chinese Media Steps Up Reporting of Deadly Tiananmen Square Attack
After days of rumor and scant coverage, China's official media stepped up its reporting of Monday's (Oct. 28) deadly crash on Beijing's Tiananmen Square after police said it had been a "carefully planned, organized and premeditated" terrorist attack.
Beijing police said the SUV that plowed into a crowd of tourists outside the Forbidden City in downtown Beijing was driven by Usmen Hasan, an ethnic Uighur from the restive western region of Xinjiang.
His wife, Gulkiz Gini, and mother, Kuwanhan Reyim, were with him in the car, which had Xinjiang license plates, along with devices filled with gasoline, knives and a "jihad" flag, police said.
Beijing police have detained five suspected Islamist militants after confirming that a deadly crash was a terror attack. The assault killed two tourists, one from the Philippines and another from Guangdong province, and injured 40 people.
Any Chinese media outlets that covered the crash had stuck to the terse details on the official state-run Xinhua news agency, with no footage shown on the state broadcaster, CCTV.
There were some images and comments posted on the Twitter-style Weibo, but these were deleted by authorities, and searches of relevant key words were blocked by the system of online controls known as the Great Firewall.
However, once the incident was officially declared an act of terror, postings were allowed, and the reaction on Sina Weibo was forthright in its support for the police.
Peng yuan wrote that the Chinese police had done "a great job in cracking down these terrorists."
"We will not allow any behavior that harms national interests, undermines social stability and harmony. We will not compromise towards terrorism," wrote the commenter.
Lan xiaomao said people should "strongly condemn these bastards who harm innocent people and turn their life dark. How cruel and cold-blooded."
Police said they found more knives and at least one "jihad" flag in the temporary residence of the five detained suspects, Xinhua reported.
According to the spokesman, the suspects admitted that they knew Usmen Hasan and conspired to plan and carry out the attack. They said they had not expected the police could capture them only about 10 hours after the incident.
Xinjiang's 8 million Turkic-speaking Uighurs are an ethnic group that shares close linguistic and cultural links to central Asia, quite distinct from China's majority Han.
A low-level insurgency in the region has occasionally boiled over into violence over the past two decades, although this is the first time that unrest had made itself felt in the nation's capital.
In July 2009, local Uighurs turned on Han Chinese in Urumqi -- an incident that led to deadly reprisals by Han on Uighurs a few days later. The riots killed nearly 200 people, most of them ethnic Han Chinese, and left more than 1,700 wounded. Uighurs are not known to have previously carried out any suicide attacks.
The main exiled Uighur group, the World Uyghur Congress, said a lack of transparency in China meant there would only be one side of the story given and it feared the response to the incident would lead to "further demonization" of the Uighurs.
"The Chinese government will not hesitate to concoct a version of the incident in Beijing, so as to further impose repressive measures on the Uyghur people. Chinese officials commandeered the war on terror for its own cynical purposes to justify harsh measures against the Uyghurs," said World Uyghur Congress president Rebiya Kadeer in a statement from Washington, D.C.
Human rights groups have long said they believe Beijing exaggerates the threat to justify harsh controls.