This morning, Wednesday November 6th, a homemade bomb detonated outside the headquarters of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) in Shanxi province, northern China, killing one person. The attack comes amidst tight security across China, with sensitive official meetings due later this week that may see radical overhauls to China’s economy, and in the wake of last week’s suicide attack in Tiananmen Square by Uighur Muslims.
At around 7:40 am, reports indicate seven homemade explosive devices detonated outside the provincial headquarters of the CCP in Taiyuan, capital of Shanxi province. One person was killed and 8 were injured, one critically. The devices were apparently planted in flower beds outside the building, and detonated as government workers began to arrive for the day. Images widely distributed on Chinese social media show metal pellets and ball bearings that were reportedly scattered across the area after the explosions. No individual or group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack.
The incident comes at a politically sensitive time for China. Top CCP leaders are due to meet on November 9th for a three day session (the ‘Third Plenum’ of the new leadership) to outline China’s economic and political direction for the next decade. This is widely expected to include a raft of major social and economic reforms, aimed at promoting economic liberalisation, tackling corruption and providing social security with the goal of moving China towards more stable economic growth. Previous Third Plenums in 1978 and 1993 were the source of the most sweeping economic reforms in recent Chinese history.
Security across the country has also been stepped up following last week’s suicide attack in Tiananmen Square. In that incident, a car was driven into crowds of tourists before bursting into flames. The 3 occupants were killed along with a Japanese and Filipino tourist, while nearly 40 tourists and security personnel were injured. The attackers have been identified as Uighur Muslims, with the Chinese authorities calling it a terrorist attack and blaming the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, a Uighur terrorist group apparently with some loose connections to the Al Qaeda organisation. Uighurs are a large Muslim minority in China’s westernmost province of Xinjiang, and often complain of discrimination and repression. Terrorist attacks, riots and ethnic violence are not uncommon in the region, with Uighur extremists sometimes attacking targets outside Xinjiang as well.
However, homemade bombs and domestic terror attacks unrelated to the Uighur issue are a not entirely uncommon phenomenon in China. In 2009 two separate attacks on public transport systems by disgruntled citizens killed 26 and 24 people, while a man killed 47 people by setting alight a bus in Xiamen earlier this year. In September, a bomb exploded outside a school in Guilin, killing two and injuring more than 40. A disabled man was jailed last month for setting off a homemade bomb in Beijing airport in July. These incidents are often the result of disgruntled individuals who feel mistreated by the state bureaucracy, in issues ranging from criminal cases to land confiscations.