Westerners in Beijing warned of Christmas terrorism threat; parts of city … – Los Angeles Times

The U.S. Embassy in Beijing on Thursday morning warned citizens of a Christmastime terrorism threat against Westerners in one of the city’s most popular expatriate districts.

Beijing authorities put swaths of the city under lockdown, stationing armed guards on street corners and in pedestrian plazas.

“The U.S. Embassy has received information of possible threats against Westerners in the Sanlitun area of Beijing, on or around Christmas Day,” the embassy said in an email to American citizens living in Beijing. “U.S. citizens are urged to exercise heightened vigilance. The U.S. Embassy has issued the same guidance to U.S. government personnel.”

The British, French and Irish embassies also sent similar warnings. None gave further details about the threat.

Yang Shu, a counter-terrorism expert at Lanzhou University in northwest China, said the threat’s high profile and focus on Westerners could mark a first for Beijing. “If you look at previous terrorist threats in the area dating back to the ’90s, except for one incident in central Asia … no other attacks in China and central Asia have targeted Westerners,” he said. 

Sanlitun is one of Beijing’s most fashionable districts, a warren of chic restaurants, bars, cafes and shopping outlets, including China’s first Apple store, which opened in 2008. The area has seen violence before: In August, a Chinese woman was stabbed to death outside a Uniqlo clothing store as she walked with her French husband. Chinese media later reported that the assailant said he “hated Americans” before he attacked.

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Beijing authorities have issued a yellow security alert —  the lowest on a three-tier system — to last through Christmas weekend, according to a statement by the city government’s media office. “As the holiday season approaches, the number of people visiting shopping, entertainment and dining venues will increase remarkably,” said the statement, citing local police. “The Beijing police will spare no efforts to ensure security and order.”


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