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Xinjiang 'suspects' named after Tiananmen crash: China media
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Oct 29, 2013


China stifles discussion of deadly Tiananmen crash
Beijing (AFP) Oct 29, 2013 - A deadly car crash in Beijing's central Tiananmen Square received muted coverage in Chinese media Tuesday, as a vast censorship apparatus suppressed unofficial accounts of the incident.

Newspapers across China carried news of Monday's crash -- which killed five people and injured dozens -- low down on their front pages and ran brief reports from state-run media, highlighting official efforts to control discussion of the incident, which struck at the symbolic heart of Chinese state power.

Chinese media outlets are known to receive direct instructions from the government directing their reporting of events deemed threatening by the ruling Communist party, which in recent months has moved to tighten controls over all forms of media.

The Beijing News, generally an outspoken paper, gave priority to reports of a protest by doctors in eastern China. Like other newspapers, it did not run a report of the event by its own journalists, and republished an account from the official news agency Xinhua.

The state media reports, carried by all major newspaper and news websites, stressed official rescue efforts and did not contain information about whether the incident was deliberate.

An outspoken news website, Uighurbiz.net, said that a journalist in China received a government order that: "No content, pictures or video can be added and the headline cannot be changed, look out for comments -- if they cannot be controlled, then close off comments."

The order could not be confirmed by AFP.

Reports on the crash by the Southern Metropolis Daily newspaper were quickly deleted from their website. It is based in the southern city of Guangzhou -- nearly 1900 kilometres (1180 miles) from Beijing -- and was apparently the only newspaper to publish its own coverage.

Chinese social media sites, which are closely controlled albeit less strictly than print media, were an early source of pictures of the crash and speculation that it was an act of protest, but eyewitness accounts were rapidly removed.

China's most popular Twitter-like service, Sina Weibo, employs thousands of staff in the northern city of Tianjin to delete politically sensitive posts, Chinese media have reported.

One eyewitness who posted photographs online told AFP that he had been contacted by Sina staff warning him not to post further information. The eyewitness asked to remain anonymous out of fear of official reprisals.

Chinese broadcasters did not show updates from reporters at the scene of the incident, while police detained foreign journalists who tried to do so, ordering them to delete photographs.

Some Internet users contrasted state broadcaster CCTV's coverage of the Tiananmen crash -- it did not mention it on its flagship evening bulletin -- with its live reports after a vehicle rammed the gate of the White House in Washington recently.

"CCTV immediately arrived on the scene to report, and broadcast the images across China... no American police stopped the reporter," a historian called Cao Junshu wrote on Sina Weibo.

Chinese police have named two suspects from the restive far-western province of Xinjiang after five people were killed in a car crash on Beijing's Tiananmen Square, reports and documents said Tuesday.

The incident -- in which a sport utility vehicle drove along the pavement, crashed into crowds and caught fire at the capital's best-known and most sensitive site -- killed three people in the car and two tourists, according to Beijing police.

The square lies next to the Forbidden City, a former imperial palace and top tourist attraction, and was the location of pro-democracy protests in 1989 that were violently crushed by authorities.

In a notice to hotels, police identified two suspects and four car number plates, all from Xinjiang, in relation to a "major case" that occurred on Monday, the Global Times reported.

Police also instructed hotels to watch out for "suspicious" guests and vehicles, said the paper, which is close to the ruling Communist party.

It carried the details in its English-language edition, but the Chinese version did not mention Xinjiang.

Security guards from several hotels in Beijing confirmed they had received a police notice.

A version posted online by 64tianwang.com, a Sichuan-based human rights news portal, gave the suspects' names, identity numbers and registered residences, while urging hotels to report potential clues.

Its veracity could not be confirmed by AFP.

Xinjiang is home to ethnic minority Uighurs, many of them Muslim.

State media have reported several violent incidents there and a rising militant threat, but Uighur rights groups complain of ethnic and religious repression, while information is tightly controlled.

Police have arrested 140 people in Xinjiang in recent months for allegedly spreading jihad, and killed 22 Uighurs in August in an "anti-terrorism" operation, the official news agency Xinhua reported earlier.

One of the suspects named in the reported notice was from Shanshan county, which includes Lukqun, where state media said 35 people were killed in June in what Beijing called a "terrorist attack".

Ilham Tohti, a prominent Uighur intellectual, cautioned against using the Tiananmen incident to stigmatise the ethnic group or imposing tighter controls in the region, according to the web portal Uighurbiz.net.

It cited him as saying that, without evidence to justify the claims, it should not be described as an action or a terrorist incident by Uighurs. However, he added that extreme methods by Uighurs could not be ruled out.

Other newspapers across China carried news of Monday's crash low down on their front pages and in contrast to the Global Times used brief reports from state media -- highlighting official efforts to control discussion of the event.

Chinese media outlets are known to receive instructions from the government directing their reporting of events deemed threatening by the ruling Communist party, which in recent months has moved to tighten controls over all forms of media.

The Beijing News, generally an outspoken paper, gave priority to a protest by doctors in eastern China. Like other newspapers, it did not run a report of the Tiananmen event by its own journalists, and republished an account from the official news agency Xinhua.

The state media reports, carried by all major newspaper and news websites, stressed official rescue efforts and did not contain information about whether the incident was deliberate.

Chinese social media sites, which are closely controlled albeit less strictly than print media, were an early source of pictures of the crash and speculation that it was an act of protest, but eyewitness accounts were rapidly removed.

The reports and witnesses said the SUV drove along the pavement outside the Forbidden City on the north side of the square before crashing into the crowd.

Images posted on Chinese social media sites showed the blazing shell of the car and tall plumes of black smoke.

China's most popular Twitter-like service, Sina Weibo, employs thousands of staff in the northern city of Tianjin to delete politically sensitive posts, Chinese media have reported.

One eyewitness who posted photographs online told AFP that he had been contacted by Sina staff warning him not to post further information. The witness asked to remain anonymous out of fear of reprisals.

The square -- which always has a significant security presence -- appeared normal on Tuesday, with no sign of any damage at the crash site.

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