BEIJING: A Uighur group dismissed Beijing’s account of a “terrorist attack” in Tiananmen Square as a dubious pretext to repress the ethnic minority on Thursday, even as state-run media hinted at potential repercussions.
Beijing police said on Wednesday that Usmen Hasan—in an SUV carrying his mother and wife, jihadist banners and machetes—sped onto the pavement, crashed in Tiananmen Square and set the car alight.
The crash in the symbolic heart of the Chinese state killed all three people in the car and two tourists, with 40 others injured.
Five other suspects with Uighur-sounding names were captured within 10 hours, although police only announced their detention two days later.
The mostly Muslim Uighur minority are concentrated in China’s far western region of Xinjiang, where ethnic tensions and discontent with the government periodically burst out into violence.
Beijing regularly calls such incidents “terrorism,” but Uighur organizations dismiss that as an excuse to justify religious and security restrictions, and information in the area is tightly controlled.
Alim Seytoff, a US-based spokesman for the overseas World Uyghur Congress (WUC), said the official narrative of the Tiananmen event was full of holes and discriminatory.
“The Chinese claim is in a way very unbelievable, to some extent outrageous. The only reason this is labelled as a terrorist incident is because the passengers happened to be Uighurs.”
Seytoff questioned why an attacker would kill his own family, and how religious material could survive in a car engulfed in flames.
“If he were a terrorist, why would he bring his mother and his wife?” Seytoff said. “The car was burned almost to the ground, the three people were burned to death, and the flag wasn’t burned—in the car?”
The account fit what Seytoff called a pattern of authorities labelling Uighurs as terrorists based on “thin evidence.”
“We do not believe there is any kind of organized resistance against Chinese rule,” he said. “Some of the violence by Uighurs—they are more sporadic, individualistic, out of desperation.”