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Irish embassy warns of security threat in Beijing this Christmas

The warning was first issued by the US embassy.

Heavily armed police officers in Beijing
Heavily armed police officers in Beijing
Image: Associated Press

The Department of Foreign Affairs has said that it is aware of possible threats against Westerners in Beijing this Christmas.

It joined other foreign embassies in China as it issued a warning notice today about possible threats in a popular Beijing neighbourhood ahead of the Christmas holiday.

The notice, from the US and British governments, covered the popular shopping and nightlife area of Sanlitun. The Irish, and French and Australian embassies referred to the American warning on their websites.

It is rare for governments to issues warnings of this kind for Beijing.

The Irish Department of Foreign Affairs warned Irish people in Beijing to exercise caution over the Christmas:

The Irish Embassy is aware of reports that there may be possible threats against Westerners in the Sanlitun area of Beijing, on or around Christmas Day. Irish citizens are urged to be vigilant and to closely follow the instructions of local authorities.

Occasional threats 

The Sanlitun area has been the site of occasional violence against foreigners, including a grisly murder in August when a Chinese attacker stabbed a French man and his Chinese wife with a sword. The woman later died from her injuries.

Mass attacks in Beijing are very rare, although in October 2013 five people were killed and dozens injured when a vehicle ploughed into crowds in Tiananmen Square, with the suspects appearing to be mostly from the restive Xinjiang region.

Beijing described the incident as a terrorist attack.

The US embassy’s statement on its website today urged citizens to be vigilant, while the British embassy made a similar warning, saying it had received information about possible threats against Westerners on or around Christmas.

China Beijing Security Chinese paramilitary policemen close off a road leading into embassies in the Sanlitun district of Beijing Source: Associated Press

The Irish, French and Australian embassies passed on the warning to their citizens.

Heightened security

Photos on social media showed a heightened police presence in front of a Sanlitun shopping centre home to major international brands.

They also showed a camouflage van surrounded by men armed with rifles wearing fatigues in a plaza near one of Beijing’s two embassy districts.

The city’s police department issued a yellow alert Thursday, the second level in a four-tier system, according to a post on its social media account.

A yellow alert is issued when authorities have information about a significant and approaching threat to public security, state media said. They can relate to natural disasters as well as issues linked to social order.

China Beijing Security Chinese paramilitary policemen close off a road leading into embassies in the Sanlitun district of Beijing Source: Associated Press

The alert, expected to last through New Year, would “ensure good social order during the upcoming holidays”, police said, adding that it was due to “the gradual increase of shopping promotions, celebrations and entertainment activities”.

It did not offer any more details, but the measure comes after a stampede in Shanghai last New Year’s Eve that left over 30 dead and was blamed on poor crowd control.

With reporting from Cormac Fitzgerald.

- © AFP, 2015

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