Man, 26, sets off 'firework device' outside US embassy in China, Beijing says it was isolated incident

A bomb exploded outside the US embassy in Beijing on Thursday, wounding the lone assailant, the embassy said in a statement, but police described the weapon merely as a “firework device".
A security personnel gestures near the US embassy in Beijing, China on July 26, 2018.
A security personnel gestures near the US embassy in Beijing, China on July 26, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS
A policeman carries a plastic bag after a blast outside the US embassy in Beijing on July 26, 2018.
A policeman carries a plastic bag after a blast outside the US embassy in Beijing on July 26, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS
Broken glass is seen near the US embassy in Beijing on July 26, 2018.
Broken glass is seen near the US embassy in Beijing on July 26, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS
Journalists take photos of scattered glass and blood on the pavement outside the US embassy in Beijing on July 26, 2018.
Journalists take photos of scattered glass and blood on the pavement outside the US embassy in Beijing on July 26, 2018.PHOTO: AFP
A woman is detained by security personnel outside the US embassy in Beijing on July 26, 2018.
A woman is detained by security personnel outside the US embassy in Beijing on July 26, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS
A security personnel removes objects near the US embassy in Beijing on July 26, 2018.
A security personnel removes objects near the US embassy in Beijing on July 26, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS
A security personnel gestures among a crowd of bystanders gathered outside the US embassy in Beijing on July 26, 2018.
A security personnel gestures among a crowd of bystanders gathered outside the US embassy in Beijing on July 26, 2018.PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (AFP, REUTERS, BLOOMBERG) - A 26-year-old Chinese man set off a "firework device" outside the US embassy in Beijing on Thursday (July 26), injuring his hand in the blast before he was taken into custody, police said.

Chinese police said there were no other injuries in the incident, which took place near where visa applicants typically queue to enter the embassy for interviews.

The explosion was set off by a man surnamed Jiang from China’s Inner Mongolia region, police said, adding that he was taken to hospital and that his injuries were not life-threatening.

Police did not provide a motive for the man's actions.

The US embassy, in a separate statement, described the device as a bomb.

"According to the embassy’s regional security officer, there was one individual who detonated a bomb. Other than the bomber, there were no injuries. The local police responded,” an embassy spokesman said.

There was no damage to US embassy property, the embassy said.

Responding to media queries at a regular news briefing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said the incident was an isolated case of public security and that the police had responded in a timely manner.

Video clips that circulated on social media shortly after the explosion showed smoke in the air outside the embassy compound, and AFP journalists arriving at the scene found heavy Chinese security.

“We heard a rather strong explosion at around 1pm so we went out on the street to have a look, but very soon the police had cordoned off the area,” said a witness who declined to be identified.

A 19-year-old high school student who gave his name as Li said the blast happened as he was queuing to apply for a US visa to take an exam in Los Angeles. “I’d just arrived and started to queue and then heard a loud explosion about 100 metres away."

A police SUV appeared to have been damaged, with its back windshield missing, and was cordoned off by police before being removed, a witness said.

Further details about the incident were not immediately available, with police quickly cordoning off the spot where the blast took place and China’s state-censorship apparatus moving swiftly to block searches for “US Embassy” on the popular Twitter-like Weibo platform.

The embassy resumed normal operations at about 1.45pm, the police said.


Security personnel and investigators work at the site of a blast outside the US embassy in Beijing on July 26, 2018. PHOTO: REUTERS

There was apparently another incident at the same location.

An earlier report in the Global Times, a newspaper run by the ruling Communist Party’s People’s Daily, said a woman had tried to spray herself with petrol in a suspected self-immolation attempt at 11am. She was taken away by police before she could set the petrol alight.

Investigations into both incidents are ongoing.

China regularly sees cases of disgruntled individuals lashing out at society over various grievances or perceived injustices, often harming themselves or others.

The area where the incident took place is in Beijing's Chaoyang District and home to several embassies, including those of South Korea, India and Israel.