Friday April 3, 2020


October 29, 2013

According to Xinhua, an official news agency in China, at 12:05pm on Monday October 28, a jeep crashed into a guardrail of Jinshui Bridge across the moat of the Forbidden City. It then burst into flames directly in front of the famous portrait of Chairman Mao Zedong that hangs over the southern entrance to the Forbidden City.  The crash killed five people, including the two drivers, and injured 38.

Since the crash, authorities have been investigating whether ethnic minorities from China’s Xinjiang region were involved in the incident.  In a notice sent to hotels in Beijing, police ordered hotel staff to search for “suspicious” guests and vehicles related to Monday’s incident and specifically named two residents of western China’s Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.  The two men appeared to have Uighur names, which are distinctly different from Han Chinese names.  Additionally, the notice to the hotels listed four vehicles-including two cars and a motorcycle-with license plate numbers from the Xinjiang Province.

Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic minority, have clashed repeatedly and violently with Chinese authorities and ethnically Han Chinese in Xinjiang in recent years.  This, according to the Uighurs is a necessary reaction to oppressive government policies and widespread discrimination.  Earlier this month, in fact, Chinese Police reported they arrested 139 people in Xinjiang for spreading religious extremism online.  These arrests came in the wake of riots in that left 35 people dead.

“It looks like a premeditated suicide attack,” a Chinese government source told Reuters, speaking on condition of anonymity.  One of the men, identified in the notice circulated to the Beijing hotels as Yusupu Wumaierniyazi, was listed as a resident of a town in Xinjiang in which 24 police and civilians and 13 militants were killed in an attack on June 26.  The second suspect is from Pishan county where seven ‘terrorists’ were shot and killed by police in 2011.   When faced with these facts, the possibility of a premeditated suicide attack looks highly plausible.

Willy Lam, an adjunct professor at the Chinese University of Hong Kong’s Center for China Studies, said the incident, taking place in China’s most important and sensitive public space, would be considered a major loss of face and embarrassment for Beijing’s leadership, especially if it turned out to be related to Uighur separatism.

This sensitive situation has resulted in a strong display of the intense censorship the West has come to expect from China.  While a number of Chinese medial outlets did report Monday’s incident, their accounts stuck to the bare-bones details published by the official Xinhua news agency.  No footage was shown on CCTV, China’s state broadcaster, and the images that appeared immediately after the incident on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter, were largely deleted.  Web searches combining the words “Tiananmen,” “Terrorism,” and “Car Crash,” were also blocked.  Additionally, all CNN broadcasts about the incident were blocked inside China.

Thus, the general Chinese public is left with the less than detailed report from Xinhua, which concludes by saying, “Further investigation regarding this incident it under way.”

For further coverage of the Tian’anmen Crash, please see the following news sources and commentary

Xinhua5 dead, 38 injured after Tian’anmen Car Crash

The Washington PostFiery SUV crash in Tiananmen Square may have been suicide attack by ethnic Uighurs

CNNChina censors pounce as Tiananmen Square jeep deaths investigated

The GuardianTiananmen car crash may have been suicide attack, officials claim

NPRPolice Seek Suspects in Tiananmen Car Crash

BBCChina Tiananmen Square car blaze kills five people

Reuters China suspects Tiananmen crash a suicide attack

The Wall Street Journal Fatal SUV Crash Closes Tiananmen Square

BloombergFive Killed as Car Runs Into Crowd at Tiananmen Square

Complied and Edited by Madeline Fetterly