The fiery crash of a sports utility vehicle Monday in Beijing's Tiananmen Square, the symbol of the Chinese Communist Party's power and rule, must have shocked President Xi Jinping and other Chinese leaders. It killed not only the three occupants of the vehicle, which caught fire after plowing into a crowd of tourists, but also two bystanders. It also injured 40 others, including one Japanese. The police circulated a list of eight suspects, seven of them Uighurs, and reportedly arrested five suspects on Wednesday.

It is appears that behind the incident is Uighur anger at the government's policy toward ethnic minorities, which the Uighurs regard as repressive. This incident, apparently a suicide attack, strongly suggests that social instability continues to exist despite China's rapid economic development. Violent retaliation by the Chinese leadership against Uighurs would likely only make the situation worse. Beijing must instead consider how it can end the cycle of repression and terrorism that plagues China.

Tiananmen Square was the scene of a massive crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrators in 1989. All the more shocking to Chinese leaders no doubt was that Monday's incident happened as authorities were beefing up security measures ahead of a meeting of the party's 200-member Central Committee on Nov. 9-12. The attack took place in front of the Tiananmen Gate, not far from the Zhongnanhai complex where many Chinese leaders live and work.