Beijing (AsiaNews) - A woman of unknown identity set herself on fire in Tiananmen Square yesterday. The protest took place to coincide with the opening of the proceedings of the twelfth session of the National People's Congress, the "Chinese Parliament", which met in the Great Hall of the People (also located on the capital's symbolic square). The woman was immediately surrounded by police and soldiers, who first put out the fire and then took her away: her condition is reported as not life threatening.
Some eyewitnesses have told Radio Free Asia that they "only glimpsed" the woman, who would have suffered burns to her face. According to these people, she was "very thin, between 30 and 40 years". The police have already cleared the square from all traces of the episode, preventing those present from taking pictures. Between 11 am and 11:30 am, Tiananmen was "put back in order".
Beijing based rights activist Wang Jing, human said: "I saw smoke
coming from the Jinshui bridge, and ran to see what was happening. I saw white stuff [extinguisher foam] everywhere; you couldn't see the
person, and then they started to clear the area and the police wouldn't let
people take photos". Currently,
the only images available are those on the website Tianwang (see picture), where you can see the blanket of smoke over
For the time being reasons behind the woman's gesture remain unknown: the Tibetan newspapers say the attempted suicide and self-immolations taking place in Tibet are unrelated, while the Uyghur dissidents say they "know nothing" about what happened. In any case, what is certain is that the woman wanted to protest against the Chinese government. It is not uncommon for people who travel to Beijing with petitions, complaints or criticism of local authorities to choose special moments - such as the opening of the NPC - to make their voices heard.
These forms of protest, however, are almost always blocked by the police and the people involved arrested or sent home. In December 2013, on the occasion of the World Day for Human Rights, a group of 13 people attempted a mass suicide in Beijing to protest over the lack of compensation for the forced eviction from their homes. Even at that time, the police intervened to arrest the protesters and clear the scene. In October of the same year, a car exploded in Tiananmen killing three people: the authorities claim it was "an attack" organized by the independence of Xinjiang