|Chinese break up 'needle' riots
04 September 2009
Riot police in the western Chinese city of Urumqi have
used tear gas to disperse crowds in a third day of
protests over public safety fears.
There has been growing anger over attacks with
Han Chinese in the city say they have been targeted in
the attacks. They are also calling for quicker trials
for people charged in July's ethnic riots.
Almost 200 people, most of them Han Chinese, were killed
in violence with ethnic Uighurs in Urumqi.
Chinese authorities blame Uighur separatists for July's
violence, saying it was orchestrated by Uighur
separatists in exile. Xinjiang's population is split
between mainly-Muslim Uighurs and Han Chinese - the
country's majority ethnic group.
The BBC's Michael Bristow, in Urumqi, describes the
situation as tense, as riot police move around the city
to break up angry crowds gathering at intersections.
Police were guarding the central People's Square - scene
of a large demonstration on Thursday - and waiting at
roadblocks and in lorries parked on side streets.
Police moved to contain the protesters in Urumqi on
There were scuffles at one intersection as police moved
in to arrest several protesters, our correspondent says.
Authorities have announced a ban on "all gatherings,
marches or protests on roads or other public venues,"
the state-run Xinhua news agency said.
Large numbers of police were deployed overnight in the
city after tens of thousands of Han Chinese protested in
central areas on Thursday.
A series of unexplained stabbings using hypodermic
syringes appears to have triggered the protests.
Chinese media said that nearly 500 people, almost all
Han, have sought treatment for stabbings in the past few
weeks. Reports said 89 people had "clear syringe marks"
but that no-one had been infected or poisoned.
A businessman in Urumqi told the BBC on Thursday that
many members of the Han community had joined the
Another Han resident said he was concerned for his
"The local government is not doing enough to protect Han
people there... I am really [worried about] my family
and relatives there. [The] Chinese government should do
more to prevent this," he told the BBC.
There is also anger over what many perceive as official
slowness in punishing suspects charged for July's riots.
Protesters have accused the provincial government of
being "useless", and some even called for the dismissal
of regional Communist Party boss Wang Lequan, who is
thought to be an ally of President Hu Jintao.
The tension between Xinjiang's Uighur and Han
communities has been simmering for many years, but the
ethnic unrest in July was the worst in China for
The violence began on 5 July when an initially peaceful
protest by Uighur youths, apparently prompted by an
earlier riot in a factory in southern China, spiralled
out of control - with shops and vehicles burned and
About 80 people have been charged over the violence but
no date has been set for their trial.