China replaces top general in Xinjiang after Beijing attack Peng Yong relieved as military commander after Islamic extremists blamed for 28 October attack in Tiananmen Square A high-ranking military officer in western China was sacked days after a deadly attack in the heart of Beijing, suggesting that the incident may have rattled China's leadership enough to precipitate a political fallout. On 28 October a white Mercedes-Benz sport-utility vehicle ploughed through a crowd in Tiananmen Square, crashed into a guardrail and exploded. The driver, his two passengers and two tourists died and 40 other people were injured. General Peng Yong was removed from the Communist party standing committee in Xinjiang, the restive western region that was home to the driver, the state-run Xinjiang Daily said in a front-page article on Sunday. He was replaced by Liu Lei, another high-ranking military official. The paper did not give explicit reasons for Peng's removal. China's official newswire, Xinhua, called the crash a "carefully planned, organised and premeditated" attack and said authorities had arrested five suspects within hours. It identified the driver as Usmen Hasan, a 33-year-old ethnic Uighur from Xinjiang, and the passengers as his wife, Gulkiz Gini, and mother, Kuwanhan Reyim. It said that police found machetes and a flag showing "extreme religious content" in the vehicle's charred remains. Xinjiang is a massive sprawl of desert, mountains and forests that borders eight countries including Pakistan, Afghanistan and India on China's westernmost frontier. It is home to nine million native Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim ethnic group which, according to advocacy groups, suffers from religious repression and economic marginalisation as the region is flooded by majority Han Chinese. Ethnic tensions occasionally flare into violence; in 2009 about 200 people died amid riots in the regional capital, Urumqi. China has heightened security throughout Xinjiang since the attack, according to media reports. "Flights between Xinjiang and inland regions are currently under more stringent security checking," reported the state-run Global Times newspaper. Citing local police, the BBC reported that security levels were raised and police were visiting "sensitive religious families". The Wall Street Journal reported that Hasan's home town, Lukqun, was in lockdown. Local authorities could not be reached for comment on Monday. A raft of state media reports and editorials have cast the crash as an act of terrorism. Last week China's top security official, Meng Jianzhu, blamed the attack on the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a Xinjiang-based Islamic fundamentalist group with ostensible ties to al-Qaida. No group has claimed responsibility for the attack. Advocacy groups have disputed the official version of events, claiming the group lacks the resources to carry out an effective terrorist attack. "If the Uighurs did it, I believe they did it out of desperation because there is no channel for the Uighur people to seek redress for any kind of injustice they had suffered under Chinese rule," Rebiya Kadeer, leader of the international advocacy group World Uighur Congress (WUC), told Reuters. The Chinese government considers the WUC a terrorist organisation. Nicholas Bequelin, senior Asia researcher at Human Rights Watch, said: "We have to recognise there is a terrorism issue, and there is political violence in Xinjiang. But at the same time, it is true that China is instrumentalising this terrorising to suppress the Uighur people [and] deny them basic rights." Bequelin said Chinese authorities were unwilling to admit that the centre of the terrorism threat lay within the country's borders. "If it's located inside of China, you have to ask yourself, is it because we have terrorists in Xinjiang? Which leads you to: why do these people have grievances? Which then opens up the whole issue of why Chinese policies are making Uighurs feel like strangers in their own land." China replaces top general in Xinjiang after Beijing attack | World news | The Guardian ******************************************************** The removal of Gen Pong Yong is another farce to save 'face'. How is the General responsible for the incident in Beijing? Beiing is not under the jurisdiction of Gen Pong. Typically Chinese. Show immediate efficiency by stringing up the first scapegoat available and credible! It is China's top security official, Meng Jianzhu, who should be hung by the nearest lamppost in the Chinese manner of 'instant justice'. He is to blame. He has failed the Chinese people. Most probably he was too busy extorting money from his victims to be bothered about China's security! What China has to realise is that it cannot be ostrich like any more. China has to recognise there is a terrorism issue, and there is political violence in Xinjiang. But at the same time, also realise that China is instrumentalising this terrorising to suppress the Uighur people [and] deny them basic rights. The Chinese authorities are unwilling to admit that the centre of the terrorism threat lay within the country's borders. If indeed it is not and they know it is from Pakistan, then why are they playing footsie with Pakistan? Why is China selling itself to terrorism and then wailing and breast beating? If it's located inside of China, they they have to ask themselves that they have terrorism because they have terrorists in Xinjiang? But that leads to the embarrassment that China shies away to admit : why do these people have grievances? And then that opens up the whole issue of why Chinese policies are making Uighurs feel like strangers in their own land?