The LA Times has reported that the alert is in relation to a Christmas terrorist attack, and parts of the city have been put under lockdown, seemingly confirming that many of the numerous photos circulating on social media of large numbers of armed police moving around Beijing are accurate. In addition to the warning from the US embassy, the Irish and French embassies have issued similar warnings.
The US Embassy in Beijing issued a warning on Thursday of the potential for an attack on Westerners in the popular nightclub and embassy area of Sanlitun, on or around Christmas day. The warning reads:
“The U.S. Embassy has received information of possible threats against Westerners in the Sanlitun area of Beijing, on or around Christmas Day. U.S. citizens are urged to exercise heightened vigilance. The U.S. Embassy has issued the same guidance to U.S. government personnel.”
The message traveled quickly through social media on Thursday afternoon, with numerous people querying whether it was a legitimate message. These doubts were no doubt in response to rumors that swirled in August after a chemical explosion rocked the nearby city of Tianjin, and a completely fabricated warning message, also attributed to the US embassy, said that dangerous chemicals would be in the rain over Beijing. The US embassy issued no such message, and Beijing did not have any poisonous rain.
This message, however, is actually from the embassy. The UK foreign service followed up with a similar message shortly afterward.
“The British Embassy Beijing has received information of possible threats against Westerners in the Sanlitun area of Beijing, on or around Christmas Day. British citizens are urged to exercise heightened vigilance. The UK Embassy has issued the same guidance to British Government Staff.”
Images of armed police in the area also circulated on social media.
Sanlitun has often been in the headlines for less than pleasant reasons. In recent months, it was the site of a vicious stabbing attack with a sword that left two dead, a French man and his Chinese wife. The tragedy was heightened by the fact they had very recently gotten married.