Fresh Confrontations in Urumqi
    2009-09-04 15:41:08     Xinhua      Web Editor: Zhang Jin
 

Related: Fewer Attend Prayers in Urumqi Mosques

                China Police Chief Visits Urumqi to Defuse Unrest

                Victims of Syringe Attacks in Urumqi Rise to 531

                Urumqi Imposes Rules to Ban Unlicensed Demonstrations

                Uncertainty Stalks Urumqi Residents

Special Coverage: 7.5 Riot

Urumqi residents confronted armed police Friday during protests against further hypodermic needle attacks as uncertainty stalked the streets of the city.

More than 1,000 protesters faced armed police who blocked them from entering Nanhu Square at about 1:40 p.m..

Witnesses said two members of the Uygur ethnic minority were caught attacking innocent people with needles in the vicinity of a Carrefour chain store Friday and the victims wanted revenge. But policemen sequestered the two suspects, which triggered angry responses from the public.

The police used tear gas to disperse the crowd. Broken glass was seen on the ground.

Another group of more than 100 young demonstrators marched on Jiefangnan Road around the city's bustling commercial area about 2:30 p.m..

The protesters, mainly young people, shouted "punish mobsters severely and restore peace and tranquility." Many held national flags and sang the national anthem.

About 100 armed police officers holding shields moved along with the protesters. When the crowds tried to break through a police cordon, the police fired tear gas, forcing the protesters back.

A Xinhua reporter at the scene said tears were running down his face and the fumes were choking.

A young man in his 20s sustained three injuries. His thigh was bleeding and police officers sent him to hospital.

All shops, banks and commercial facilities along the street were closed.

Military wagons still patrolled the area while armed police issued orders through loudspeakers, asking the public to show restraint.

A number of other small-scale confrontations were reported in the city Friday.

Helicopters were hovering over the city for the second time since the July 5 riot that left 197 people dead.

The municipal government confirmed Friday it had issued an order banning unlicensed marches, demonstrations and mass protests.

The announcement Thursday night, following a massive protest against a series of syringe attacks in the city, aimed to "safeguard public order, protect the lives of the public and guarantee the safety of property," said a government spokesman.

Weapons, knives with restricted uses, explosives, the use of violence, and creating disturbances have also been banned.

If there are violations "the public security department will disperse those gathered, and detain or punish those who disobey the order. "

RESIDENTS UNCERTAIN OF FUTURE

"I bought a lot of food today. Who knows what will happen next," said Luo Huanzhang, from the Guangming Road area.

The roadside outdoor agricultural produce market was crowded and many people said they intended to stock up, Luo said. Residents were also keeping their forays into public places short.

"I don't know whether I should go to work," said an employee with the Xinjiang branch of China Life Insurance (Group) Company, who only offered his surname Tang.

Traffic controls imposed at 9 p.m. Thursday banned vehicles on major roads in downtown areas such as Youhao Road, Guangming Road and Renmin Square.

Bedding seller Chen, 28, said she closed her shop on Wednesday as protests against the needle attacks flared.

"People have been so upset and unnerved recently. Doing business was almost impossible," said Chen.

"My friends keep asking me to return to my hometown and I'm still thinking about it," said Chen, who has lived in the city for 26 years since arriving with her parents from Chongqing, in southwest China.

"My career is rooted here, I don't want to leave," said Zhang Shiying, who runs a construction materials shop in the city's northern area.

Zhang, a native of Beijing, opened his business in Urumqi 14 years ago.

Alip Toglak's restaurant on the Jianshexi Road has had no customers for the last two days.

"This region is safe. Please come to eat in my restaurant," the 50-year-old Uygur man pleaded with passersby.

"I will not shut down the restaurant.

"I hope life will return to normal soon," he said.

The Experimental Primary School of Urumqi, a first-class school in the city's south with more than 1,000 students, was closed Friday, and it was unclear whether it would resume classes on Monday, said Ding Lan, an 11-year-old student.

The management authority of the Appendant School of the Chinese Academy of Sciences Xinjiang branch, in northern Urumqi, required parents to pick up their children on Thursday, said Xi Rui, a teacher with the school, which has 1,000 primary and middle school students.

She said the school had received an order on Friday to suspend classes until further notice.

A reporter with the Xinjiang Economic Daily said staff of the Xinjiang Administration of Education had ordered the closure of schools on Friday, and it was unclear when they would reopen.

The Xinjiang International Exhibition Center, the venue of the ongoing 18th Urumqi Trade Fair which attracts crowds of business people from all around the world, especially from central Asia, was under tight security and had fewer visitors than normal Friday.

Participants were required to open their bags and then have them scanned at the entrance of the exhibition center. Most participants had walked a long way to the venue because of traffic controls.

Many indoor booths were vacant as company representatives had not shown up and the flow of visitors had also dropped drastically. Many firms were beginning to sell products on display at half price.

"No one came. It is unsafe in the city. The needle attacks are terrible," said a sales girl from the Double Happiness Home Appliance Co., based in Zhuhai City in the coastal province of Guangdong.

Zhang Min, a native of Urumqi, said she visited the trade fair every year to order suitcases. "But people are scared of going out now, so the trade fair will be ruined," Zhang said.

A delegate from Usu City in Xinjiang said his team was told to limit their activities to within 300 meters of their hotels after the event closed every day.

Police in Urumqi have detained 21 people, of whom six are in police custody and four referred for criminal prosecution, said the regional information office Thursday.

It also said the courts would hand down severe punishments to those found guilty.

Authorities have issued arrest warrants for 196 suspects and prosecuted 51 for involvement in the July 5 riot, the regional government information office said Thursday.

Police have requested the procuratorate to approve the arrests of another 239 suspects thought to be involved in 140 crimes. Another 825 are being held in criminal detention, the office said.

Police authorities said Friday Urumqi's 24 hospitals had received 531 victims of hypodermic syringe stabbings. Of those 106 showed obvious signs of needle attacks.

The victims include members of ethnic groups such as the Han, Uygur and Kazakhstan.

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