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Special> Focus on Xinjiang> Latest News
UPDATED: September 7, 2009
Harmony Makers Sent to Urumqi Communities
The move aims to help ease panic and tension after syringe attacks led to mass protests

Authorities in China's Xinjiang said Sunday they will send more than 7,000 officials to 110 communities in the regional capital of Urumqi to help ease panic and tension after syringe attacks led to mass protests.

They also vowed to give syringe attackers harsh punishment according to the law, ranging from three years in prison to life sentence or even death penalty.

"The officials will go door to door to explain policies and solve disputes," said Wang Lequan, secretary of Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Regional Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC) late Sunday.

The regional government had earlier sent 1,500 such officials and police officers to communities densely populated by Uygurs in wake of a deadly riot on July 5.

"These officials have done a great deal of face-to-face educational work in communities and maintain social orders," he said.

The move is an important "treasure" to smash the separatist sabotage of the "three forces" of extremism, separatism and terrorism both at home and abroad, the regional party chief said.

Wang made the remarks at a meeting for mobilizing civil servants to go to the grassroot neighborhoods to help solve public disputes and maintain social stability.

He reviewed the unrest in Urumqi since the riot on July 5, which left nearly 200 people dead, mostly ethnic Han people.

He said four suspects stabbed a Han woman with syringe needles in Xiaoximen Shopping Area in Urumqi on Sept. 3, sparking mass protests that demanded security guarantees.

The protests left four dead and 14 others hospitalized.

"The incident has seriously affect the normal public life, and caused social disturbance," he said.

The situation in Urumqi is on the whole stable, but it is also fragile as demands of some residents have not been met and the sporadic occurrence of needle attacks continue to ignite sentiments, Wang said.

The control and mandatory measures, which bring inconvenience and ignite people's sentiment, could spark mass gatherings anytime, he said.

By Friday, local health and police authorities had confirmed 531 victims of hypodermic syringe stabbings, 171 of whom showed obvious signs of needle attacks.

The majority of the victims are of the Han ethnic group and the minority are from the ethnic groups including Uygur, Hui and Kazak, Wang said.

Medical experts have ruled out the possibility that radioactive substances, anthrax and toxic chemicals were used in recent needle attacks.

He also called on local residents not to believe and spread rumors and to express their demands through legal channels.

The social order had returned to normal after the July 5 riot, but the enemies at home and abroad were not reconciled to failure and so they conducted the needle attacks to spark public panic and anger, Wang said.

The mass protests have affected normal life and production in Urumqi and put to test the unity, stability and harmony that people of all ethnic groups have been seeking and longing for for years, the official said.

Returning to normalcy

Security presence remained heavy in Urumqi on Sunday while signs of normalcy returned to the city.

Hundreds of armed police were seen in the People's Square at the city center. Police were still blocking Xinmin Road, which links to a viaduct leading to the southern part of the city, an area densely populated by Uygurs.

A fleet of six flower-decorated wedding cars passed a downtown street as police eased traffic restrictions imposed in the wake ofpublic protests.

Ba Bayisilong, a Uygur student in Xinjiang Education Institute, came back to school on Sunday, after a two-month summer vacation.

"I'm back from my home in southern Xinjiang. All my classmates have returned," said the computer science major.

China Mobile, the nation's largest telecom carrier, opened a sales booth on the school campus. A large crowd of students, including both Han and Uygur students, patronized the stall to buy phone cards.

Vehicles were back on the streets and residents were out for shopping. Tianshan Shopping Mall and Carrefour Supermarket at downtown streets were thronged, while public security staff asked customers to open their bags for security checking.

Newly-inaugurated Communist Party chief of Urumqi Zhu Hailun said Saturday his top priority is to restore public security.

Zhu's predecessor Li Zhi was removed from post, along with Xinjiang's police chief Liu Yaohua, on Saturday.

Harsh punishment

Syringe attackers will be given harsh punishment in accordance with the law, said a notice jointly released by the city's court, prosecutor's office and police department late Sunday.

Those who stabbed others with syringe needles containing poisonous or harmful substances or contaminated with drugs may be sentenced to three years and more in prison, or life imprisonment and even death penalty, if convicted, said the notice.

Such acts constitute the crime of deploying dangerous substances to harm others as described in China's penal code, which is punishable by death if the consequence is grave, the document said.

Those who spread fake information about stabbing cases, which disturbed the social order, will also be detained or jailed.

Citizens are allowed to seize and turn over the people stabbing or having stabbed others to police stations.

The punishment of those who surrender themselves or squeal on others may be lightened or exempted.

(Xinhua News Agency September 6, 2009)

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