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Beijing mystery fire hurts 2

THREE people bringing personal petitions to Beijing may have set themselves on fire when their car was stopped by police yesterday, leaving two members of the group injured.

The Beijing city government information office said two of the three were hospitalized for non-life-threatening injuries.

The injured people were a couple, said officials at Beijing Jishuitan Hospital, where the pair were receiving medical treatment. The hospital specializes in burn cases.

The man, 59, who was seriously burned, suffered swelling to his throat and head and severe injures to his respiratory tract. He may need a tracheotomy, the hospital said.

The woman, 58, who was less severely injured, was burned badly on some of her fingers, which may require amputation, the hospital said.

Several sources said there were two men and one woman in the vehicle at the time of the incident.

An eyewitness who refused to be named said two people were taken away by ambulance, and the other was removed by police.

The government statement said the "fire started suddenly" when officers stopped the car and walked up to it to question the occupants at around 2:50pm.

Police then extinguished the fire.

The information office said earlier that three people "set fire to themselves" while inside the car.

The statement said "police found something abnormal about the car" before they stopped it at the south end of Wangfujing Avenue.

"The three people came to Beijing for personal petitions," the information office said.

The car had a non-Beijing license plate, and the identities of the occupants were not released.

Another witness said he saw that police were "possibly trying to intercept the car. The people in the car lit a fire, but it was quickly put out."


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