Uighurs 'biggest victims' of Tiananmen attack: China media

BEIJING - China's mainly Muslim Uighur ethnic minority will be the "biggest victims" of Monday's Tiananmen Square attack, which has been dubbed terrorism by the authorities, state media said Thursday.

Three members of the same family were in a sport utility vehicle that crashed and burst into flames at the symbolic heart of the Chinese state, killing the occupants as well as two tourists. Police have said five suspects have been arrested.

Police had refrained from stating the attackers' ethnicity but the Global Times, which is close to the ruling Communist party, said: "The violent terrorists involved in the Square incident are all Uighurs."

"Their cruelty in aiming their jeep at innocent lives will never be forgiven."

The paper, which often strikes a nationalist tone, called for a "united front against terrorism", and in an editorial said: "Violent terrorists are the common enemies of all China."

"People from Xinjiang, especially the Uighurs, will be the biggest victims," it added.

Overseas Uighur activists have already voiced concern that Beijing's response to the incident may lead to a "fierce state crackdown" on the ethnic group.

Xinjiang, home to the Uighur minority, regularly sees incidents of unrest, and inter-ethnic rioting in the capital Urumqi killed around 200 people in 2009.

"Society will see the real negative effects brought by the violent terrorists," the Global Times said, adding that there was increased security on flights to and from the area.

"The ordinary work and study of Xinjiang people in inland regions may be affected," it said, adding that people in Xinjiang "need to understand the negative effects and overcome them by cooperating with their inland counterparts".

The Global Times however also urged China's non-Uighur population to reach out to the minority group and "make the Uighurs feel our sincerity."

"The inland people need to step up vigilance," the paper wrote. "Meanwhile, we should know this will discomfort the Uighurs, which needs to be offset by more hospitality and enthusiasm from us."

Relations between China's dominant Han majority - millions of whom have moved to Xinjiang in recent decades - and the Uighur minority are often tense, in part because of reports of what Beijing calls terrorism.

Police have arrested at least 139 people in the region in recent months for allegedly spreading jihad, according to state-run media.

Another state-run paper, the China Daily, issued an editorial Thursday suggesting that the Tiananmen attack could have repercussions for Uighurs.

"What they have done is against the interests and will of the majority of Uighurs, who have benefited from the unity of the country, from the reform and opening-up, and from the country's preferential policies for non-Han ethnic groups," the paper said.