Tiananmen Square terror attack

Uygurs in Beijing fear backlash over Tiananmen Square vehicle attack

The Muslim minority in Beijing is worried the fallout from the Tiananmen Square car attack will disrupt their businesses and daily lives

PUBLISHED : Friday, 01 November, 2013, 4:08am
UPDATED : Friday, 01 November, 2013, 5:01pm

Beijing's Uygur communities fear the fallout from this week's suspected terrorist attack in Tiananmen Square could disrupt their daily lives, damage their businesses and increase mistrust with members of the capital's Han majority.

In the three days since a jeep occupied by a family of three Uygurs ploughed into a pedestrian walkway in front of the square's famed tower gate and exploded, killing themselves and two tourists, police have stepped up identity checks in neighbourhoods populated by members of the Muslim minority.

One woman Uygur restaurant owner in Haidian district said police came to her restaurant twice since the incident to check identification cards of her staff.

The restaurant had not received a single Han customer since the attack on Monday, she said. The previous day, Han accounted for roughly 60 per cent of the diners, she said.

"We're Uygurs, but we're also honest and hard-working businesspeople who cherish a prosperous and peaceful life as much as everybody else," said the restaurant owner, who has lived in Beijing for two decades. "We hope everything can go back to normal as soon as possible."

Police have detained five Uygurs from the restive western region of Xinjiang in connection with the incident, according to Beijing police and Xinhua reports. Xinjiang has long been troubled by ethnic clashes, including a spate of violent incidents this summer.

Another Haidian restaurant owner said his establishment, which usually received between 600 and 700 diners each day, had seen a 20 per cent drop.

"I'd be more worried about the long-term effect of the attack as we might be shunned by landlords in leasing a home or opening new business in Beijing," he said. "But most of the Uygurs came to work and study here like any other decent people."

Amid the tension, a spokesman from the defence ministry said yesterday that the People's Liberation Army was prepared to step into the country's anti-terrorism response, if called. "The Chinese army will join the crackdown against terrorist activities when necessary and in accordance with the planning of the nation," Yang Yujun said at a monthly press briefing.

State media have run extensive commentaries calling for a "united front" against terrorism. The political chief of the Xinjiang public security bureau Zhang Zeyu told a Xinjiang news portal that hostile Western forces were to blame for the region's increased security risks.

The report called for greater "ideological control" through propaganda and other measures in order to prevent the spread of "separatist forces" in the region.

An editorial in the Global Times, which is published by the People's Daily, said terrorists were "common enemies" of the entire country. "People from Xinjiang, especially the Uygurs will be the biggest victims," it said.

Meanwhile, Rebiya Kadeer, exiled leader of the Munich-based World Uygur Congress, said an international investigation should be launched.