White smoke and foam left by fire extinguishers were the only signs of a confrontation in Beijing’s Tiananmen Square Wednesday morning, amid tight security for the National People's Congress.
Five eyewitnesses close to the scene told the South China Morning Post how a commotion erupted near Tiananmen Gate, the main entrance to the Forbidden City, at around 11am.
Shortly afterwards smoke could be seen rising from the square.
“I had a glance that four, five men trying to put out a fire,” said a woman from Jilin province at the scene. “It all happened so quickly.”
“I heard it was a woman around 40 who burned herself,” she said. “She was alive when they took her away.“
A number of unverified and undated photos shared online showed police rushing to extinguish a fire near the northern end of the square.
Witnesses said police quickly moved to check bystanders' phones, ordering visitors to delete photos and emails of the scene.
The eyewitness accounts come amid tight security on the first day of the annual session of the National People’s Congress at the Great Hall of the People on the western side of Tiananmen Square.
Five people were killed and 38 injured when a jeep rammed through barricades in front of Tiananmen Square's gate tower and burst into flames in October last year.
Three people inside the vehicle died, along with two tourists.
The incident happened just ahead of the Communist Party's third plenum.
Approximate location of the incident on Wednesday: