The Tian Mingjian Incident

Liberation Army officer First Lieutenant Tian Mingjian
Liberation Army officer First Lieutenant Tian Mingjian

The Tian Mingjian incident was an act of mass murder that occurred in Beijing, China on September 20, 1994, when People’s Liberation Army officer First Lieutenant Tian Mingjian (Chinese: 田明建) first killed his officer as well as his battalion of 24 at his military base in Tongxian County and afterwards drove towards Jianguomen, where he continued his shooting spree and indiscriminately fired at people in the streets. Dozens were killed and wounded, including an Iranian diplomat and his son, before Lt. Tian was finally shot dead by a police sniper.


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. Due to the One Child Policy in China, most people are not allowed to have more than one child. Tian already had a daughter but he came from the rural area in Henan Province where people hold a strong traditional cultural value that not having a son is among the Three Biggest Failures in a man’s life. 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).


– Army base

On September 20 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. Other reports stated he boarded a bus.

– Jianguomen

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, as well as 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 gunbattle with him, in which an undisclosed number of officers was killed, and a number of passers-by hit by bullets. Also a bus got caught in the line of fire, when the driver in panic stopped his vehicle, resulting in more casualties. 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 December 7 the same year that 15 people were killed, among them six servicemen, and 60 others were wounded.


When Canadian television began to report live about the shooting at the embassy district satellite transmission was immediately turned off by the Chinese government, and further reporting and on-site interviews were prohibited.

Shortly after the shooting the Beijing Garrison Command (BGC) was ordered by the Central Military Commission to conduct a thorough review of the incident. The investigation was organized by the People’s Liberation Army’s General Staff Headquarters and the General Political Department, and headed by Zhang Zhen, then vice chairman of the Central Military Commission.

Due to the investigation the commander of the Beijing Military Region, Lieutenant General Li Laizhu, and its political commissar, Lieutenant General Gu Shanqing, were given serious warnings as a disciplinary sanction and serious demerits within the party. It also resulted in the dismissal and demeriting of BGC commander, Major General Liu Fengjun, and BGC political commissar, Major General Yang Huichuan, who were then replaced by He Daoquan and Zhang Baokang. Additionally the commander and political commissar of the Third Guards Division, as well as the commander of the 12th Regiment and all battalion commanders and instructors under his command were dismissed, while several military officials of the Political Department of the Beijing Military Region, and the Beijing Garrison Headquarters and Political Department were punished. In total about 60 military officials were punished, demerited, or dismissed as a consequence of the shooting.

Furthermore, the Third Guards Division of the Beijing Garrison was transferred from Beijing to a remote border post, and a general order was issued to the entire army by the Central Military Commission Headquarters to strictly carry out weaponry management system and to strengthen ideological work.

Others have been awarded for their handling of the shooting, among them an official who directed Tian’s interception and the sharpshooter who had killed the gunman.



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