July 21 (Bloomberg) -- A man in a wheelchair who detonated a home-made bomb at Beijing International Airport yesterday was seeking compensation for an alleged beating by public security guards in 2005, state media reported.
The man, Ji Zhongxing, 34, was the only person hurt in the explosion outside the arrival exit of Terminal 3 at about 6:24 p.m. local time, Xinhua reported, citing an initial police investigation. Li, whose left hand was amputated as a result of the blast, was taken by police from hospital, the Southern Metropolis Daily said, citing unidentified doctors.
The explosion triggered an outcry on China’s Internet with thousands of postings on microblogging sites denouncing social injustice and violence that pose a threat to public security. The incident occurred days after a watermelon vendor in southern Hunan province died after a clash with urban management officers.
“Social conflicts at grass roots levels have reached an unprecedented level as officials shield each other and the petitioning system is problematic,” Hu Xingdou, a professor at the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at Beijing Institute of Technology, said in a telephone interview. “This person may have chosen the international airport because he wants to gain revenge on society and get more attention.”
Petitioning is the practice dating from imperial times by which people take their complaints either to local officials or directly to the capital.
The airport raised the level of security checks today and all three terminals have activated plans to prevent explosions, according to a Beijing Evening News report posted on the official People’s Daily website that cited the airport police.
In a security scare this afternoon, police asked crowds at the Terminal 3 exit to step away from an unattended bag and called in two sniffer dogs before taking the item away.
A woman who answered the phone at the airport’s press office today said she hadn’t received any notification that security measures have been stepped up. “We will follow the police department’s requirements to ensure security at the airport,” she said, declining to give her name.
Ji, from Heze city in eastern Shandong province, set off his explosive device at Beijing airport “like fireworks,” after he was stopped from handing out leaflets calling attention to his complaints, according to the Xinhua report.
Photographs on Xinhua’s website yesterday showed airport and medical staff in a smoke-filled area of the arrival hall with police officers and other workers surrounding a person on the ground near an empty upturned wheelchair. The airport said on its official microblog site that operations weren’t disrupted.
Incidents such as Ji’s are becoming more common, said Wu Qiang, a political scientist at Tsinghua University in Beijing who studies social unrest.
“Protesters are taking the issues from where they originated to places where they can get greater public attention,” he said. “It raises public awareness of social problems as urban residents start to encounter them in their own lives.”
In June, a bus fire that killed 47 people in the city of Xiamen was started by a man who planned the blaze to vent personal grievances, Xinhua reported at the time.
In 2008, a 28-year-old unemployed man stabbed five officers to death and wounded four at a police station in Shanghai in a revenge attack for being suspected of stealing bicycles, the city’s police department said.
“It’s a great challenge for the government which not only needs to handle the individual cases, but also to provide an overall public security solution to the general public, who are growing more anxious,” Wu said.
Ji was beaten by public security guards in Dongguan, southern Guangdong province, where he earned a living running an unlicensed motorcycle taxi, according to a report in Blog Weekly, a Beijing news magazine. Wounds to his lower body festered as he was too poor to have them treated, the magazine said.
In 2008, Ji lost a lawsuit in Dongguan related to the 2005 clash with security guards, according to an article on the website of the official Yangcheng Evening News based in Guangzhou, citing a statement released by the city government. There was no evidence that his injuries were caused by the alleged beating, it said.
In 2010, after Ji petitioned authorities in Beijing, Dongguan police granted him 100,000 yuan ($16,300) for humanitarian assistance and he promised to stop petitioning, according to the statement.
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