Police officers fence off the scene of a car accident in front of Tiananmen Gate at Tiananmen Square on Oct. 28, 2013 in Beijing, China. Getty Images
Chinese authorities and media seem certain the Tiananmen car crash that killed five and injured 40 Monday was an organized act, perpetrated by the country’s Muslim ethnic Uighur minority.
But international Uighur and human rights advocates are demanding proof, saying China is already using the incident to legitimize alleged religious and socioeconomic repression that experts say has accelerated in recent months.
China’s Public Security Bureau said on the Twitter-like microblog Sina Weibo Wednesday that along with the Usmen Hassan, the alleged driver of the jeep that crashed at Tiananmen, were his wife and mother. Authorities have already reported that they are investigating a number of Uighur suspects allegedly implicated in the crash.
"The Chinese authorities should make available all relevant information, so that the general public can understand what happened," Sharon Hom, the executive director of Hong Kong-based advocacy group Human Rights in China (HRIC), told Al Jazeera.
The international Uighur community remains skeptical.
"It took the government nearly three days to come up with an explanation for what happened," said Alim Seytoff, president of the Washington, D.C.-based Uyghur American Association.
Seytoff noted that, according to international media reports and images that came out of the incident, the police quickly erected a barricade around the crash site, "detained reporters, deleted footage and cleaned up the whole crime scene in less than two hours."
"If he was a terrorist, why would he bring his wife and mother?" said Seytoff.
Other experts say the crash did not seem like the work of an organized armed group.
"This incident in Beijing doesn't look like a well-orchestrated terrorist attack, but it looks like the acts of an individual," said Dru Gladney, a Xinjiang expert and professor at Pomona College in Claremont, California. Gladney said the attack was more "idiosyncratic" than acts of terror orchestrated by groups like Al-Qaeda.
Numerous Public Safety Bureau authorities declined to comment on the circumstances surrounding the crash.
If Monday's car crash was indeed politically motivated, it was a last-ditch effort to draw international attention to the cause of politically, socially and economically marginalized Uighurs in China, said Nuri Musabay, the secretary general of the World Uyghur Congress, which advocates for Uighur causes outside of China.
"They don't have the right to live in East Turkestan," Musabay told Al Jazeera, employing the separatist term for the territory officially known as the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region, in China's far-west.
Many Uighurs have complained not only of sweeping religious restrictions affected by an ostensibly socialist, secular Chinese state, but of stark economic inequalities with the sizeable Han Chinese population that moved into the region as a part of economic development efforts.
"Finally, they might have tried to end this occupation," said Musabay.
Beijing has accused the World Uyghur Congress of promoting unrest in Xinjiang.
"We don't want any violence. We want peace, but the Chinese never listen to us," Musabay said, adding that the international media's presence in what he calls East Turkestan is extremely restricted, and that if the driver chose to go to Beijing, it was likely because there is a larger international media presence there, and because Chinese authorities would more likely heed a call that hit closer to home.
Both Musabay and Seytoff said that, as natural resource-rich Muslim nations continue to do business with China, they appear to forget the plight of what Seytoff called "a historical Muslim community."
"The Arab and Muslim world never pay attention," Musabay said. "We suffer alone."
Saeed Khan/AFP/Getty Images
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