Farm worker held in blasts at 2 Beijing universities

Police say man confessed

bombing motive unknown

March 09, 2003|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

BEIJING - The police seized a farm worker yesterday who they say has confessed to setting off explosions late last month at two Beijing universities. The arrest apparently concluded a nationwide dragnet for the person who caused the rare terrorist incidents in China's tightly patrolled capital.

A police spokesman told reporters that the man, Huang Minxiang, 27, had been apprehended in his home province of Fujian in southeastern China and had immediately confessed to causing both explosions, which came within two hours of each other.

"He has unreservedly confessed to causing this incident," the spokesman, Liu Wei, said.

The blasts were set at cafeterias at Beijing University and Qinghua University at the lunch hour Feb. 25.

At least nine people were wounded and glass was shattered in the areas around the blasts. The explosions alarmed students accustomed to relative quiet and tight security in the sprawling, gated campuses of China's most elite universities.

Though Muslim separatists from the Xinjiang region have been accused of causing explosions in the Chinese capital in the past, the latest bombing led to concerns that China might not be as isolated as people here once believed from the wave of terrorist bombings that has hit the United States, Indonesia and other nations.

It also prompted a major police reaction because it came days before China's annual two-week parliamentary session, now under way in Beijing.

Liu did not say whether Huang had told the police the motive for the bombings. The official New China News Agency reported that the police had discovered where Huang is said to have made the explosive.

Farm incomes in China have been stagnant despite the nation's rapid economic growth, and there are regular peasant uprisings to protest high and arbitrary taxation.

It was unclear whether economic grievances prompted the bombing. But top leaders have used the latest session of the national legislature, which is formalizing a sweeping leadership transition, to promise that they intend to address China's growing wealth gap and stubborn rural poverty.

Officials at Beijing University said last week that they had identified a male suspect between 20 and 40 years old whose image was captured in security cameras.

Because guns are tightly controlled, crude bombs are often the weapons of choice for disgruntled workers and spurned lovers.

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