U.S. authorities said Monday that they arrested a person who turned himself in over a fire set last week at the front door of the Chinese consulate in San Francisco.
The suspect, as it turns out, is a Chinese nationalist, to the great surprise of many in China.
The Associated Press reported that Yan Feng, a permanent resident of the U.S., tried to use his passport to ignite gasoline at the consulate's front door on Jan. 1. When that didn't work, he used a lighter, authorities said. Nobody was injured during the incident.
Authorities said they are treating the case as a criminal matter rather than a political act or an incident of terrorism:
FBI agent Michael P. Eldridge said in an affidavit that, after being advised of his right to remain silent, Mr. Feng told agents 'he targeted the Chinese Consulate because all the voices he had been hearing were in Chinese, and the Chinese Consulate had to have been involved.' There was no further explanation in the document.
The news came through various outlets, including the widely watched noon news broadcast by the official China Central Television. It was greeted with raised eyebrows by many online in China, where the Chinese government's call last week for U.S. security officials to step up efforts to protect Chinese personnel was widely backed.
'I'm speechless,' said one poster on Sina Weibo. 'I can't believe this was actually done by a Chinese national.'
'What the American government is suggesting is that this is a Chinese internal conflict and has nothing to with them,' said another poster.
Naturally -- this being the Internet -- some saw conspiracy, while others speculated on his motive. Still, many wondered why the instigator didn't pick another target. 'Set the same fire at the Japanese consulate and he would have been considered a hero,' groused one online poster.
'Mental!' said another. 'Why not go burn Japan or America?'
Others took the occasion to express their own frustration with the lengthy process of getting a visa to visit or stay in the U.S. 'All for the sake of a greencard,' said one.
美国联邦调查局(FBI)特工艾尔德里奇(Michael P. Eldridge)在一份宣誓陈述书中说，在被告知有权保持沉默后，冯严向FBI探员表示，他之所以对旧金山总领馆纵火，是因为他听见的声音全部是中文，因此才决定前往总领馆纵火。陈述书中没有提到更多的解释。