| TURPAN, China
TURPAN, China Oct 31 Chinese state media
demanded severe punishment on Thursday after the government
blamed militants from restive Xinjiang for an attack in
Tiananmen Square, as the exiled leader of the region's Uighur
minority called for an independent probe.
An SUV burst into flames on Monday after being driven into a
crowd in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, the symbolic centre of
China's power structure and one of the country's most closely
guarded areas. The three occupants and two bystanders were
killed, and dozens were injured.
Police said it was a "terrorist attack" carried out by
people from Xinjiang, home to the Muslim Uighur people, and
announced they had caught five accomplices who were planning
The ruling Communist Party's official People's Daily said
the attack was a crime against humanity, adding that the
government should spare no effort to ensure Beijing's safety.
"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," it said in an
opinion piece on its website.
"Maintaining the capital's security and stability is a
responsibility of utmost importance."
The English-language China Daily said the perpetrators will
"go down in history as murderers not heroes".
Many Uighurs chaff at Chinese controls on their religion,
culture and language, despite the government's protestations
they enjoy widespread freedoms. Xinjiang has been beset by
violence, blamed by China on Uighur separatists and extremists.
But Rebiya Kadeer, president of the Munich-based World
Uighur Congress, the main exiled Uighur organisation, cautioned
against believing China's account of the incident.
"Chinese claims simply cannot be accepted as facts without
an independent and international investigation of what took
place in Beijing on Monday," said U.S.-based Kadeer, who lives
in the Washington area.
China calls Kadeer an "anti-Chinese splittist" and will
almost certainly ignore her call for an international
investigation. Authorities have said five suspected Islamist
militants have been apprehended in connection with the incident
- all of whom have names that suggest they are Uighur.
Authorities have moved to tighten security in energy-rich
Xinjiang, and armed police prevented Reuters reporters from
entering Lukqun, where one of the detained suspects is from,
sending them back to the nearby city of Turpan.
Asked whether she believed Uighurs were responsible, Kadeer
said: "Maybe and maybe not. It is difficult to tell at the
moment, given the strict control of information by the Chinese
government on this tragic incident."
"If the Uighurs did it, I believe they did it out of
desperation because there is no channel for the Uighur people to
seek redress for any kind of injustice they had suffered under
Chinese rule," she added.
Her comments were made in written replies to Reuters
questions, translated from the Uighur language by an aide.
Kadeer is a former Chinese political prisoner accused of
leaking state secrets in 1999 who left China on medical parole
and settled near Washington with her husband and part of her
family in 2005. The 66-year-old mother of 11 previously had been
a celebrated millionaire who had advised China's parliament.
Kadeer said she feared the Tiananmen Square attack would
join a long list of incidents that China uses "to justify its
heavy-handed repression" in her native region.
She said she did not believe there was any kind of organised
extremist Islamic movement operating in Xinjiang, a view shared
by many rights groups and some experts.
"It is almost impossible for Uighurs to organise because of
China's stringent controls and attacks."
(Additional reporting by Megha Rajagopalan in BEIJING and Paul
Eckert in WASHINGTON; Writing by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Raju