Recent bombings show up loopholes in Chinese security

Materials to make explosives easily obtained from mining and fireworks industries

BEIJING • A series of deadly bomb blasts in China this week has shown how easy it is to acquire explosives in the country, revealing a major gap in its huge security apparatus .

The bombings in the south-western city of Liuzhou on Wednesday, and others in recent years around the country, demonstrate lax enforcement of rules to control access to bomb-making material.

While private gun ownership controls are strict, explosives are widely available from the sprawling mining and fireworks industries.

A victim being treated at a hospital in Liuzhou. Seven people were killed when 17 bombs went off in Liuzhou on Wednesday. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

The 17 coordinated blasts across Liuzhou destroyed one side of a residential building, overturned vehicles and sent showered bricks into the street.

At least seven people died and more than 50 were injured.

The attack has been blamed on one individual in the city, but such "sudden incidents", as China refers to them, highlight broader government worries about stability in the world's second-largest economy, with a widening gap between rich and poor and growing anger at corruption and environmental issues.

"Modern Chinese society has lots of contradictions, and if people want to send a message about their anger or make a point, they can get explosives from any mine," said Mr Pan Zhiping, a domestic security expert at the Xinjiang Academy of Social Sciences. "It simply isn't possible for the police to keep an eye on everybody," he added.

The ease with which explosives can be obtained was underscored in a court case posted online earlier this year as part of a government transparency drive.

In September last year, a court in south-western China's Yunnan province jailed a man for three years after finding more than 20 kg of explosives at his house.

The man told the court it had been easy to buy the material by saying it was for work needs, adding that he had been buying the explosives and storing them at home for the last decade without any problems, though he seemed to have no violent intent.

The government has ruled out terrorism for the attacks in Liuzhou. The suspect, a 33-year-old man surnamed Wei, used other people to send the packages, reported Xinhua news agency.

"It indicates a serious problem in China in terms of public security. It reflects a lack of effective control by the government to restrict access to these dangerous goods," said Dr Jian Zhang, a lecturer in international and political studies at UNSW Australia in Canberra.

Last year, police in Liuzhou arrested a father and son who were "unhappy with society and wanted revenge". They blew up rubbish bins in a public square using home-made firecrackers, injuring a female bystander, according to state media.

State media microblogs have speculated on the motive for the latest attack, with some suggesting it was the result of a dispute over medical treatment.

The worst incident of its kind happened in 2001, when a string of explosions at workers' dormitories in the northern city of Shijiazhuang killed 108 people. It was blamed on a man seeking vengeance over family issues, although many doubt that explanation.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on October 03, 2015, with the headline 'Recent bombings show up loopholes in Chinese security'. Print Edition | Subscribe