What exactly happened in Tiananmen Square?

This is going to be a hard one to figure out, because the censors are swooping in, but to recap, a Jeep plowed into the area and killed five (injured 38) in the process. It’s believed that the suspects are likely from the Uyghur ethnic group — part of the Xianjiang province — who are predominantly Muslim and may be having issues (read: are having issues) with Beijing’s leadership. Top communist party officials were meeting about 300 yards from where the crash took place. Some Redditors have referenced the video below and claimed the whole incident could be a suicide attack:

Regardless, Chinese authorities are deflecting questions. If it was someone — or a group — tied to the Uyghur people, it wouldn’t be too surprising given the broader context and recent events involving the “smearing” of the Uyghurian president. The general existence of the Uyghurians is uneasy within the broader idea of China. They’ve clashed many times with Han Chinese, including the July 2009 riots that left over 200 dead.

The hunt for the suspects in the Tiananmen crash is underway, and despite what I wrote above, it seems like the focus is on two individuals, not four individuals. The BBC has a good summary, Slate’s rundown will answer a few questions, and The Atlantic touches more on the ethnic issue. This video is mostly still photos, but does give a good logistical explanation of the layout of Tiananmen Square in terms of how the car had to veer into a space with pedestrians:

Broadly speaking, Tiananmen Square is the third-largest city square in the world (Xinghai, also in China, is No. 1) and has cultural significance due to the large number of events that have taken place there. The Western world likely knows it best for the 1989 protests, which produced one of the most visually-relevant images of our generation (or any generation, honestly):

China is a major economic power now, and likely will be for generations hence, but incidents like the one this week make you wonder if their civil unrest could be their undoing. That’s bad for all of us.

Ted Bauer