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Man in wheelchair detonates device at Beijing airport: state media
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) July 20, 2013

Sympathy for China airport blast protestor
Beijing (AFP) July 21, 2013 - Chinese citizens expressed support on Sunday for a disabled man who set off an explosion at Beijing's international airport, injuring himself in an apparent protest against police brutality.

Messages of support posted online came after reports said 34-year old Ji Zhongxing was driven to the act by a years-long battle for justice after being severely beaten by police.

Wheelchair-bound Ji warned passengers in the airport before detonating the small device late on Saturday in an apparent attempt to draw attention to his case without harming others, the Beijing News reported.

A policeman who rushed to the scene was the only other person injured in the explosion, the state-run China Radio International said.

"He warned those passing by... what a good member of the public, who in this country is willing to stand up and say they are more righteous than him," Zhao Xiao, a professor at the Beijing Institute of Technology wrote on the Twitter-like Sina Weibo site.

"By warning others to move away, he is a good person... I hope authorities will be understanding, or they will set off a vicious cycle," lawyer Yuan Yulai wrote.

"He was not as crazed as the police who beat him in the first place," another Sina Weibo user said.

Ji moved from the eastern province of Shandong to work as a motorcycle driver in the southern city of Dongguan, where he was severely beaten by police staff in 2005, causing him to become disabled, according to multiple reports which could not be independently verified.

He had "lost all hope with society", following an unsuccessful battle for compensation, Hong Kong broadcaster Phoenix TV reported.

Ji was arrested at the scene and taken to hospital where he had his left hand amputated, the broadcaster said.

Lawyers for Ji could not be reached on Sunday. Phoenix TV said at least one lawyer could not comment due to "pressure," from the local government in Dongguan.

Reports said Ji had grown frustrated at China's "petitioning" system, which allows citizens to file complaints directly with government departments.

Petitioners whose complaints have been ignored have for decades staged protests across China, with some using violent acts to draw attention to their case.

An unemployed man who had been a petitioner killed 47 people last month by setting off an explosion on a bus in the coastal city of Xiamen, state media reported.

Internet users favourably contrasted Ji's decision to warn passengers with the behaviour of the petitioner behind the Xiamen attack.

"It's a big step forward...because Ji chose to inflict the smallest amount of injury," one Sina Weibo user wrote.

A man in a wheelchair ignited a home-made explosive device at Beijing's international airport Saturday, state media reported, injuring himself but no others.

The man, identified as Ji Zhongxing from Shandong province, aged 34, was being treated for injuries, the state-run Xinhua news agency said, citing police.

The explosion, which occurred in the airport's Terminal 3, caused momentary panic and confusion at one of the world's busiest airports, although no one else was hurt, Xinhua said.

Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt, a Chinese foreign policy specialist at the International Crisis Group think-tank who was inside the arrivals hall at the time, described on Twitter seeing a "huge explosion followed by panic, smoke and dust".

Pictures she posted online showed a female Chinese police officer waving crowds back as dense white smoke drifted across the terminal.

In a separate tweet she said the blast had created "lots of excitement" and that police had become angry and "shouted crowds back and told everyone to leave".

A Chinese microblogger, under the username Ruhuaerdaye who had come to the airport to pick up his wife, posted: "Right now this place is full of armed police and firefighters", adding he could see "one person lying on the floor covered in white cloth, nearby is a wheelchair toppled over and a suitcase".

Another microblogger at the airport, Chihewanlezaibeijin, posted that someone holding a bomb "shouted for a while but nobody paid attention, until he opened up a white plastic cover over the bomb. Only after the people around him realised something was wrong did the security guards rush over. The security guards only said two words before the bomb went off".

On social media and Chinese websites a photo -- purportedly taken just before the explosion occurred -- showed a man in a peach coloured shirt sitting in a wheelchair with his hands in the air holding a white package.

Some Chinese news and social media sites showed what they said was a blog written by the man police identified as Ji.

In it, Ji says he formerly worked as a motorcycle driver ferrying passengers in the southern Chinese city of Dongguan and was severely beaten by police staff in 2005. The veracity of the purported blog could not immediately be verified.

Xinhua said the blast came at about 6:24 pm (1024 GMT), adding that police were investigating.

According to the preliminary investigation, police said that the Ji set off the device immediately after being obstructed from releasing leaflets, Xinhua said.

There were no immediate details on the content of the leaflets or what, if any, complaints the man may have.

Police and the airport's information office could not immediately be reached for comment while Xinhua reported that Ji's injuries were not thought to be life-threatening.

China Central Television's Twitter-like microblog said no flights were affected by the incident and that the situation had returned to normal.

An AFP photographer at the airport said there was no sign of increased police presence and travellers were arriving normally.

Photos carried on Xinhua's website showed what appeared to be medical and other workers attending to someone on the floor and people running through the terminal amid white-coloured smoke.

Security at Beijing's airport, the sixth busiest in the world with 557,000 take-offs and landings each year, is tight as are many public locations and transport hubs in the country.

The airport, with three terminals, underwent a massive expansion ahead of the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Violent crime is rare in China had a murder rate of 1.0 per 100,000 people in 2010, according to the United Nations, among the lowest in the world.

Corruption and police harassment, however, are frequent complaints, which have caused some citizens to seek redress through the courts and petitions to government agencies though they are often blocked from doing so.


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