26 October 2016
A building is damaged after explosions hit Liucheng in  the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region on Wednesday. Photo: Reuters
A building is damaged after explosions hit Liucheng in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region on Wednesday. Photo: Reuters

Deadly blasts show how easy it is to acquire explosives in China

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.

In a country where firearms are banned for most people, the bombings in the southwestern 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, Reuters said.

Private gun ownership is almost unheard of in China as controls are so strict. Explosives, on the other hand, are widely available from the sprawling mining and fireworks industries.

The 17 coordinated blasts across Liuzhou, a relatively obscure part of China, destroyed one whole side of a low-rise residential building, overturned vehicles and sent bricks showering into the street, images carried by state media showed.

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 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 at which explosives can be obtained in China 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 southwestern China’s Yunnan province jailed a man for three years after finding more than 20 kg of explosives, almost 100 detonators and 1.5 km of fuses at his house.

The man, whose surname was given as Ren, told the court he had found it easy to buy the material by saying it was for work needs, according to the judgment.

In fact, Ren said 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 says it has no motive for the attacks in Liuzhou in the southwestern region of Guangxi. It has ruled out terrorism.

The suspect, a 33-year-old man surnamed Wei, used other people to send the packages, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

On Thursday morning, another blast was reported in Liuzhou, although it only caused minor damage and no casualties. It was not clear if it was linked to the previous day’s blasts.

Guangxi is home to many mines, which use explosives, and like the rest of China it will have lots of firework manufacturers.

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

However, explosives are not often seen in violence in the far western region of Xinjiang, where China says it is battling an Islamist insurgency, with tight security limiting access to bomb-making materials or guns. Knives are generally involved in the violence there.

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