By Barbara Demick, Los Angeles Times
BEIJING — In a break with its usual secrecy, the Chinese government on Tuesday released video of a deadly attack in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square last fall, along with a video purportedly made by the assailants.
The unusual step was designed to bolster Beijing’s claims that a recent string of attacks around China were the work of Islamic terrorists and not random acts of vengeance by disgruntled individuals.
Two pedestrians were killed and about 40 were injured in the October incident, in which a white vehicle drove through a crowd of tourists and then burst into flames in front of the Forbidden City in the center of the Chinese capital.
The video released Tuesday by the official New China News Agency was included in a 24-minute program, simply titled “Terrorism.”
One section, reportedly made before the attack, shows four people, including a toothless old woman, wearing black headbands and chanting, “God is great.”
The Chinese agency said three of the four — identified as the driver, his wife and his mother — were killed in the car that exploded at Tiananmen Square. In another section of the same video, another suspect is shown burning a Chinese and an American flag.
Chinese authorities also released high-resolution video, apparently captured by security cameras, of the vehicle jumping a curb, plowing through a crowd of pedestrians and bursting into flames under the iconic portrait of Mao Tse-tung. A black flag with Arabic script can be seen hanging from a window of the vehicle.
Besides the occupants of the vehicle, two tourists, one Chinese and one Filipino, were killed in the attack.
Chinese authorities say the attackers were inspired by the East Turkistan Islamic Movement, a shadowy organization seeking an independent state in Xinjiang, China’s northwestern-most region, which borders Pakistan and Afghanistan. Xinjiang is home to the Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking, mostly Muslim ethnic minority.
This month, three Uighur defendants were sentenced to death by a court in Urumqi, the Xinjiang capital, on charges of organizing the Tiananmen Square attack. Some of the video shown Tuesday was released during the trial, but not widely distributed.
One of the Uighurs sentenced to death was interviewed for the program on terrorism. Wearing an orange prison vest, he is quoted as saying that the attack was inspired by DVDs and Islamic propaganda on the Internet.
“We started to watch these in 2013,” he says, according to a translator. “I downloaded it to my telephone and watched many times. … I feel so pumped up when I see it. I want to participate in holy war.”
The program was released at a news conference Tuesday by the National Internet Information Office. Besides bolstering the government’s claim that Islamic terrorists are at work in China, the video was designed to justify a crackdown on foreign Internet sites.
“We have strengthened our control over domestic sites, but the Internet is borderless, and terrorists have hidden their videos on many famous foreign social media websites,” the narrator intones in the video, as a screenshot of Google’s home page is displayed.
©afp.com / Philippe Lopez