A car veered off the road and into Tiananmen Square and killed five people and injured dozens.
Five people are believed dead - the driver, two passengers, a female tourist from the Philippines and a male tourist from South China's Guangdong province - and 38 people were injured, reported Qianlong.com, a Beijing government news website. Authorities cleared Tiananmen Square, home to Mao's tomb, after the crash.
An official investigation is underway, reported Xinhua, the state news agency. The unusual nature of the incident, and the way the vehicle had been driven some distance along the sidewalk, injuring and scattering pedestrians, quickly led to speculation online that the vehicle was used in a deliberate attack.
Photos posted online showed the vehicle ablaze beside the historic bridges that lead visitors under the famous portrait of Chairman Mao and into the Forbidden City, the former residence of China's emperors.
Tiananmen Square is not only a big tourist draw but also the political heart of China, and therefore one of the most sensitive areas in the country. Leaders of the ruling Communist Party live and work nearby. Major party and government events take place at the adjacent Great Hall of the People, where a national women's congress was underway Monday.
Most famous abroad for the 1989 democracy protests, put down by force, the square still draws occasional and isolated protests that are quickly snuffed out by uniformed and plainclothes security officers who patrol the square and its environs.