According to a report from Qianlong.com, an official propaganda portal integrated by multiple Beijing-based media outlets, this morning (28 October) “a car drove into the crowd in front of Tiananmen Rostrum in Beijing”. The news were finally confirmed by China’s Xinhua news agency at 13:52.
Around 12:05 Beijing time, a Jeep drove into the crowd in front of the Tiananmen Rostrum, which stands at the entrance of the Forbidden City, injuring a few tourists and police officers. The incident led to the death of three people: the driver and two passengers. Xinhua declared that the police initiated recue activities immediately and the fire was extinguished within a few minutes.
“A car with a bomb crashed into the bridge next to me, hitting two or three people. And then, explosion.” Li Xiaoming ,a senior Chinese journalist who has worked for Phoenix New Media, one of the largest Chinese Internet portals, and is currently serving as a visiting fellow at Stanford University published this message he personally received from a friend through mobile messaging app Wechat. He also cited China News Agency’s report: “Following orders from the Public Security Bureau, Metro Line 1 Tiananmen East Station is going to be temporarily sealed. All Line 1 trains will pass through the station without stopping. Containment measures are about to be taken at Tiananmen West Station exit B as well.”
With the security forces strengthened, the Tiananmen Square has been blocked for approximate 6 hours. An elder, who experienced the whole processes at the sense, asserted to China Current, “There are a great amount brands read ‘Since Tiananmen Square flag-lowering ceremony needs, this channel temporarily impassable, please bypass’. And these places are almost completely cordoned by police.”
Several China correspondents from British media outlets have speculated that this could be a self-immolation incident, although it was just described as an “accident” on Chinese official media. Malcolm Moore, Daily Telegraph Beijing correspondent, quoting the Beijing Government’s statement, said that six ambulances were sent to Tiananmen after the Jeep crash.
Compared to the July 2011 self-immolation incident at Tiananmen Square, which went unreported by Chinese media, this time official media in China have responded relatively fast with articles and Weibo or Twitter posts. Their reports have in turn been quickly reposted by other Chinese media. However, numerous photos and posts about the incident are emerging and quickly being deleted off Weibo. “Thank you Safety Beijing (Beijing Public Security Bureau’s official Weibo account) for telling us about the current circumstances at the scene. Looking forward to hearing about the results of the ‘real’ investigation soon”, said David Bandurski, a researcher at the Journalism and Media Studies Centre affiliated to The University of Hong Kong, on his Weibo account in Chinese.
Beijing Station’s News Assistant Isabel Wang as well contributed to this coverage
29 OCTOBER UPDATE: the number of casualties has been raised to 5. The two additional deaths were tourists who were hit by the car, one from Guangdong and one from the Philippines. Of the 38 injured, 3 were tourists from the Philippines and one from Japan. The identities of the car passengers are still unknown but a leaked document suggests the authorities might be looking for two suspects from Xinjiang.