U.S. Issues Security Alert for Christmas Day in Beijing

December 24, 2015, 4:35 PM UTC
Christmas Eve In Beijing
BEIJING, CHINA - DECEMBER 24: A SWAT team guards the popular shopping district of Sanlitun during Christmas Eve on December 24, 2015 in Beijing, China. The British,U.S. and French embassies in China say they have received information of possible threats against Westerners in Beijing around Christmas. (Photo by Emmanuel Wong/Getty Images)
Photograph by Emmanuel Wong—Getty Images

At least four countries have issues security warnings to their citizens about traveling in a popular district in Beijing on Christmas Day, citing possible terrorist threats against Westerners.

On Thursday, the U.S. Embassy in China issued an alert cautioning citizens to “exercise heightened vigilance” around Sanlitun, a Beijing hotspot for expat culture and nightlife. French, British, and Australian officials issued similar statements, without additional explanation, according to Reuters.

The Beijing police put the city on “yellow” alert—the second-lowest threat level—but some streets are reportedly on lockdown. Photographers have reported seeing Chinese police, who are not usually armed, patrolling the neighborhood with guns.

The threats mark a departure from previous terror threats in China, which have rarely targeted Westerners. Attacks branded as “terror” in China, such as the mass murder of at least 31 in a train station in Kunming last year, are typically blamed on militants from the restive Xinjiang province. In 2013, a car that drove through a crowd of people right outside Tiananmen Square in Beijing—the heart of the city, where the Great Hall of the People and Chairman Mao Zedong’s mausoleum are located—was also blamed on Xinjiang militants.