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Page last updated at 14:34 GMT, Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Chinese set themselves on fire

A police car at the crossing where the incident happened
The incident happened at a traffic intersection in central Beijing

Three people have set themselves on fire in the Chinese capital, Beijing, state media says.

The group were in a car at a busy intersection in a shopping area near Tiananmen Square when they set themselves alight.

Police said the men had come to the capital with "personal grievances".

There have been a number of self-immolation incidents in Beijing in recent years. Most involve petitioners angry with the government.

The Beijing Municipal Public Security Bureau said fire ignited in the car as police moved to examine the vehicle.

Two of the men had been taken to hospital with injuries that were not life-threatening, the bureau said.

"Based on initial inquiries, the three came to Beijing to voice personal grievances," it said, without giving further details.

Mobile phone pictures taken shortly after the incident show that the men's car had a number of flags fixed to its roof, reports the BBC's James Reynolds from Beijing.

It is not clear what kind of movement or organisation the flags represented.

Witnesses say that the intersection was back to normal just half an hour after the men were taken away.

Since the suppression of pro-democracy demonstrations in 1989, Tiananmen Square has become a known venue for protest and its traffic is closely watched by the police.

Normally, soldiers are placed inside the square with fire extinguishers by their feet - in order to stop any intruders from setting themselves on fire, our correspondent adds.

The incident comes as Chinese deputies prepare for the annual National People's Congress.

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