New Unrest in Xinjiang Capital Urumqi
By Stephanie Ho
03 September 2009
New unrest broke out in China's restive Xinjiang region, as demonstrators took to the streets of the capital Urumqi to protest deteriorating public safety. This follows reported syringe attacks in Urumqi and comes nearly two months after violent rioting there killed nearly 200 people.
The news of hypodermic syringe attacks in Urumqi was carried by official Chinese media.
The state-run China Daily newspaper said police seized 15 people suspected of stabbing people with hypodermic syringe needles. The brief report said police are investigating and that no victims have yet been found to be infected or poisoned with anything.
The report did not say how many people had been stabbed, but estimates put the number of victims into the hundreds. The official dispatch stressed that victims came from nine different ethnicities, including Han Chinese and Uighurs, a mostly Muslim Turkic minority group.
The syringe attack prompted more than 1,000 people to gather in downtown Urumqi to denounce the regional government for deteriorating law and order.
Officials in Xinjiang could not be reached to confirm these reports.
Kurexi Maihesuti is the vice chairman of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region. On Wednesday in Beijing, he said that life in Urumqi has returned to normal following the riots that happened in July.
He says the tourism industry of Xinjiang was seriously affected by the violent criminal riots on July 5. He says tourism has begun to recover because the local government has explained the riots to the citizens and has the situation, in his words, "under control."
Xinjiang, in China's far western border area, saw some of its worst ethnic violence in decades, when Uighurs attacked Han Chinese in Urumqi on July 5. Han Chinese retaliated two days later, and attacked Uighurs, before Chinese troops restored order. The government says about 200 people died in the protests, most of them Han. But Uighur activists say the number is higher and includes many Uighurs.
The Uighurs have long complained of discrimination by the Han Chinese and say the government restricts Muslim religious practices. The Beijing government says there is no discrimination and says that Uighurs, like other ethnic minorities, receive benefits the Han majority does not. Beijing blames the unrest on what it calls Uighur separatists.
The unrest comes at a sensitive time for China's Communist Party, which in October celebrates the 60th anniversary of its rule over the country. In the past few months the government has cracked down on dissidents and rights activists.
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