(Corrects description of vehicle in first paragraph, location of gate in sixth paragraph.)
A sport-utility vehicle crashed into a crowd by Beijing’s Tiananmen Square close to where the portrait of Mao Zedong hangs, killing five people and injuring 38.
Three people in the vehicle were killed, along with tourists from the Philippines and Guangdong province, the official Xinhua News Agency said yesterday, citing the police. The injured included tourists from Japan and the Philippines, it said.
Those hurt were taken to hospitals and an investigation is under way, according to the report. Pictures of the incident posted by users of Sina Corp.’s Twitter-like Weibo service showed a car in flames, billowing smoke.
Authorities had by 2:30 p.m. yesterday put up blue and green canvas covering a portion of the area at Tiananmen gate near Mao’s portrait, which had been sealed off by dozens of police officers. Car traffic on Chang’an Avenue, which runs between the gate and Tiananmen Square, had returned to normal after Beijing’s transportation department said earlier it was halted. Tiananmen Square was also cleared.
Calls to the news department of Beijing’s public security bureau weren’t answered yesterday. A woman who answered the phone at the Tiananmen police station, who declined to give her name, said she didn’t have information on the situation and wasn’t able to comment.
Tiananmen Square, located at the center of the capital, has been subject to tight security since the government violently put down student protests there in 1989. Individuals and their belongings are subject to security screenings before entering. Tiananmen gate, just north of the square, is a popular tourist destination and an entrance to the Forbidden City.
A similar incident occurred in 2009, when three people inside a car set themselves on fire at the intersection of Wangfujing and Chang’an avenues, located a few blocks from Tiananmen Square. The three were in Beijing for “personal petitions,” Xinhua reported at the time.
Earlier this year, a wheelchair-bound man set off a homemade bomb at Beijing’s international airport to protest what he said was a beating by police in 2005. He lost his hand in the July blast and a police officer suffered minor injuries.
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