BEIJING - Members of China's mostly Muslim Uighur minority and overseas groups on Thursday dismissed China's account of a Tiananmen Square "terrorist attack" as a dubious pretext for repression, amid signs of stepped-up security.
Beijing police said on Wednesday that Usmen Hasan - in an SUV carrying his mother and wife, jihadist banners and machetes - sped onto the pavement, crashed in front of a giant portrait of Mao Zedong and set the car alight.
The incident in the symbolic heart of the Chinese state killed two tourists, with 40 other people injured, and all three in the car died, police said.
Five other suspects with Uighur-sounding names were captured within 10 hours, although police only announced their detention two days later.
The Uighur minority is concentrated in China's far-western region of Xinjiang, where ethnic tensions and discontent with the government periodically burst out into violence.
Beijing regularly calls such incidents "terrorism", but Uighur organisations dismiss that as an excuse to justify religious and security restrictions. Information in the area is tightly controlled.
"I don't think there are any Uighur terrorist organisations, but China gives us a terrorist hat," said a Uighur at a university campus in the capital, who asked not to be named.
"I love this country but I'm afraid that people won't understand me," he added. "It's possible that some would take this kind of extreme measure, but because... they had a very sad experience."
He and other Uighurs around the capital described discrimination they had encountered. A chef in a Xinjiang restaurant declined to talk about terrorism for fear he would come "under pressure".
Alim Seytoff, a US-based spokesman for the overseas World Uyghur Congress (WUC), called the official narrative of the Tiananmen event full of holes and discriminatory.