"'The U.S. Embassy has received information of possible threats against Westerners in the Sanlitun area of Beijing, on or around Christmas Day,' the embassy said in an email to American citizens living in Beijing. 'U.S. citizens are urged to exercise heightened vigilance. The U.S. Embassy has issued the same guidance to U.S. government personnel.'
"The British, French and Irish embassies also sent out similar warnings. None gave any further details about the threat.
"Yang Shu, a counter-terror expert at Lanzhou University in northwest China, said that the threat's high profile and focus on Westerners could mark a first for Beijing. 'If you look at previous terrorist threats in the area dating back to the '90s, except for one incident in central Asia ... no other attacks in China and central Asia have targeted Westerners,' he said."
NPR's Anthony Kuhn reports that authorities blanketed the Sanlitun embassy district in heavy security.
"... the Beijing Police also issued a medium-level security alert for the Chinese capital and heavily armed police began patrols across the city. The Sanlitun neighborhood is home to number of foreign embassies as well as a large open-air shopping center that's home to the China's first Apple store. At night, it becomes a popular nightlife district for locals and foreigners alike."