Owing to strict gun laws, there are very few mass shooting incidents in China. As such, they are particularly noteworthy. One such incident occurred on 20 September 1994. The official version of events reported in the Chinese press described the perpetrator as a hot-tempered man who went on a shooting spree after having his gifts rejected by the political commissar .
Tian Mingjian (born in 1964) was a first lieutenant stationed at an army base in Tongxian County, a suburb of Beijing. He had been in the military for over ten years, originally as a sharpshooter and was highly skilled in the military technology field. He was once promoted to regimental staff officer for military affairs but due to his bad temper and irritability was eventually demoted to acting company commander. At the time of the shooting he served in this position in the 12th Regiment of the Third Guards Division of the Beijing Garrison Command. He was said to have violated discipline by beating other soldiers and had a grievance against his superiors for being reprimanded about this.
Tian was married but due to his demotion, his wife was not allowed to live with him at the base. He sent gifts to the regimental political commissar, who then promised to help him in this matter, but two days prior to the shooting the commissar returned the gifts and hinted that he would punish Tian. It was also reported that Tian had a quarrel with his superiors because they had forced his wife to have an abortion when she was pregnant with their second child, in accordance with China’s One-child policy. Tian already had a daughter, but he came from the rural area in Henan Province, where strong traditional values emphasize siring a male child. Thus Tian secretly planned on having a son until someone in the army revealed his plan and the birth control officer forced his wife to have an abortion. By this time his wife was already seven months pregnant and died during the operation along with the unborn fetus (later discovered to be a boy).
On 20 September Tian armed himself with a Type 81 assault rifle and killed the regimental political commissar on the drill ground. He also killed three other military officials who were trying to stop him and injured at least ten more before fleeing the military base. While his fellow soldiers were ordered to change into civilian clothing in order to not disturb the public when searching for the deserter, Tian hijacked a jeep and headed towards Beijing.
At 7:20 a.m., when approaching a red light in Jianguomen, the driver crashed his vehicle into a tree and tried to escape. Tian killed him, jumped out of the car and started to shoot people at random while making his way towards the embassy district. He thus killed 17 civilians, including Iranian diplomat Yousef Mohammadi Pishknari and his 9-year-old son, while another of Pishknari’s sons and his daughter were wounded.
By then thousands of police were rushing to the scene and desperately tried to apprehend the gunman, but were unable to do so, since Tian was an experienced and excellent marksman. Police finally besieged Tian at Yabao Road and engaged in a gun battle with him, in which 7 policemen were killed. A bus was caught in the line of fire, when the driver in panic stopped his vehicle. Eventually, heavy police fire forced Tian to flee into a dead end where he was killed by a sniper.
The exact number of casualties remains unknown, though in the immediate aftermath 14 people were reported dead, and 72 others wounded, many of them so severely that doctors expected the death toll to rise to 40 or 50. The newspaper Lien Ho Pao reported on 7 December the same year that 15 people were killed, among them six servicemen, and 60 others were wounded.
Below is a video telling the story from Lieutenant Tian’s point of view. The Third Guard’s Division 警卫三师 had been the most trusted military unit of the CCP.