Chinese State Media Seek Tough Line on Terrorism After Deadly Tiananmen Attack
State media condemned a deadly assault on Tiananmen Square as a "jihad" against China and called for heavy punishment for Islamist militants from the restive western region of Xinjiang, believed to be behind the attack.
The jeep that crashed through pedestrians near the old imperial palace, the Forbidden City, was set on fire by the occupants of the vehicle -- a man, his wife and his mother -- and a police investigation has confirmed that it was a carefully calculated terrorist attack.
"Violent terrorist crime is the shared enemy of all humanity, the shared enemy of all ethnic groups in the country, and it must be severely punished under the law," the People's Daily, the official organ of the ruling Communist Party, said in an opinion piece on its website.
"Maintaining the capital's security and stability is a responsibility of utmost importance," it said.
Police discovered gasoline, knives, steel bars and other equipment, including a flag with extremist slogans during their search, and authorities in Beijing believe religious extremists from the Xinjiang Uighur region were responsible for the attacks.
A simmering insurgency in the region has occasionally boiled over into violence over the past 20 years, although the unrest has never before spilled over into the nation's capital.
The attack killed two tourists, as well as the three occupants of the vehicle, and left 40 injured; 12 of whom are still in intensive care.
The English-language China Daily said: "Terrorism is seeking to strike at the very heart of the nation."
"We strongly condemn the extremists who have planned and committed this terror assault. What they have done is against the common interests of all the various ethnicities in this country. Their way of asserting their will by resorting to terrorism will only make them the enemy of all Chinese people," it said.
Meanwhile the Global Times daily described the perpetrators in an editorial as "outrageous and malicious".
"They should be tackled with justice and sunlight. There will be a price in dealing with them but no society will be toppled town by terrorists," said the paper, which is owned by the People's Daily newspaper group.
"Rampant as the terrorist forces are, they have limited capabilities. Violent terrorist cases are low-probability in China. China's overall security and order won't be shaken by terrorist forces."
"Xinjiang terrorists are expanding their realm of activities but the public needs to keep cool-headed. We have to foil their attempts to create panic and sow feelings of estrangement. Frequent outbreaks of violence in recent years don't mean the extending power of the terrorist forces. Their activeness in that short period could be caused by their frenzy after being stricken," it said.
Police said they had caught five accomplices in Beijing who they said were Islamist militants planning a holy war.
Xinjiang’s eight million Turkic-speaking Uighurs are an ethnic group that shares close linguistic and cultural links to central Asia and are distinct from China’s majority Han.
In July of 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.