“What would happen if you tried to drive into Zhongnanhai (the Chinese leadership compound)?” many Chinese have wondered after an unarmed US woman was shot dead last Thursday after trying to ram her way into the White House and Capitol.
The tragic incident that occurred in Washington last week has prompted many Chinese to call into question the heavy-handed response of the US security forces.
“Why would police officers fire on the woman when she was not even carrying a weapon?” many internet users asked in disbelief.
Some Chinese netizens dug out news reports on similar incidents that happened in Beijing, curious as to whether police in the capital might handle such a situation differently.
In 2005, The Beijing News reported that an unlicensed taxi had broken into Zhongnanhai’s eastern gate on a summer night close to midnight. Zhongnanhai is a former imperial garden in central Beijing and is now home to headquarters for the Communist Party of China and the cabinet, State Council.
The vehicle was eventually waved to a stop by guards after passing the police cordon. The driver reportedly told the police the intrusion was unintentional and had no idea that he had just stormed into the country’s most important leadership compound.
“This is the first time I have ever driven in downtown Beijing. I have no idea about the roads,” the driver, surnamed Chang, was cited as saying.
In the end, police fined the puzzled driver 10,000 yuan on a charge of illegal business operation as he was running a taxi business without a licence.
The taxi driver’s minor mistake was resolved peacefully, but some Beijing residents may recall another incident near the heart of Beijing almost 20 years ago that ended in devastating violence.
On September 20, 1994, Tian Mingjian, a first lieutenant of a People’s Liberation Army unit statiioned to the east of Beijing, stole a rifle and killed several fellow officers following a long-held grudge. Tian then hijacked a vehicle and headed towards downtown Beijing.
He abandoned the car near an apartment compound for foreign diplomats less than 5 kilometres away from Zhongnanhai and started a murderous shooting rampage (AP archive video ) against passers-by and subsequently the policemen who responded to the scene. Armed with an automatic Type 81 assault rifle, Tian exchanged fire with police for more than twenty minutes before being shot dead by a sniper.
The mass killing left more than a dozen people dead and scores more wounded, Chinese and foreign media later reported. One of the victims was an Iranian diplomat.