Police have arrested a man in southern China on charges of planting bombs at two American fast food outlets in an attempt to extort money, the Guangzhou Daily said on Friday. Li Shengbiao, 27, admitted planting homemade bombs at Shenzhen outlets of McDonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken on May 16 and attempting to extort money from the fast food chains, the newspaper quoted police as saying. It was unclear if the extortion attempt had any connection with the NATO bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade on May 7, which sparked violent anti-U.S. protests across China. Police and officials of the two U.S. fast food chains reached by telephone declined comment.
Li is accused of leaving extortion letters along with the bombs in the men's room of McDonald's and Kentucky outlets in Shenzhen's Luohu district, the newspaper said. Police removed and defused the bombs. No casualties were reported. Li also telephoned the manager of the Kentucky outlet to demand 55,000 yuan (US$6,600), the newspaper said. It was unclear how much he wanted from McDonald's. He was arrested in neighbouring Dongguan city on May 20.
Police and state media have confirmed that 33 people have been killed and more than 100 wounded in more than 10 bombings this year. The bomb attacks have highlighted rising social discontent and appear to confirm government fears of volatility in a year studded with sensitive political anniversaries, an economic slowdown and rising unemployment. China's crime rate has soared along with joblessness.
Millions of urban workers have been laid off as China reforms loss-making state-owned enterprises. Communist Party chief Jiang Zemin highlighted his worries over social unrest in December when he urged officials to "nip in the bud" any threats to stability. In China's worst bomb attack this year, a powerful blast tore apart a bus in the northeastern province of Liaoning on January 6, killing 19 of the more than 40 passengers aboard in what was an apparent abortive robbery attempt.