Despite unease, Xinjiang vows to restore order

Source: Global Times [09:59 September 09 2009]

By Zhang Han

Xinjiang officials have dismissed concerns that a group of Uygurs were plotting a new round of attacks, as reported by some media, and insisted that they are restoring social order.

"The situation in Xinjiang is under control," Hou Hanmin, a spokeswoman for the Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region, told the Global Times Tuesday.

The Urumqi procuratorate approved the arrest of four more suspects Monday who allegedly committed syringe attacks, bringing the number to eight, the Xinhua News Agency reported Tuesday.

The police have picked up 45 suspects.

Some traffic restrictions were imposed on private cars Monday night, Hou said, and commuters were asked to use public transportation. The restrictions have since been lifted.

The Public Security Bureau issued a statement late Monday promising to protect residents and maintain social order after the syringe attacks triggered mass protests.

Two Hong Kong-based newspapers, Ming Po and Oriental Daily, reported Tuesday that rumors were floating in Han communities that Uygurs were preparing to attack Han people in the near future.

Zhu Qian, an official of Xinjiang Public Affairs Department, said he never heard of such rumors.

An Urumqi resident surnamed Shi told the Global Times that a report people are stockpiling food and water for an emergency was false. Shi said there are ample supplies of food and water, and he never heard of any rush to hoard such items.

Shi said the situation was "much better" compared with the day before.

"More people can be seen on the streets as well as more buses and private cars. Most roadside shops are opened to customers," Shi said.

Li Zhifeng, an official with Office for Maintaining Stability in Xinjiang, said that social order was being restored. However, Li also noted there's still a degree of unease. Most shops were closed by 9 pm on some busy streets in north Urumqi. People seem to be walking briskly on Xinhua Road and some women carried sticks.

"People still feel the sense of security is lacking," Li said, added that the best way to ease people's fear and eliminate rumors is to catch and punish attackers.

A notice issued Sunday by the court, the prosecutor's office and the police bureau of Urumqi said those who used syringes to attack people may be sentenced to three years or more in prison, life imprisonment or even get the death penalty, if convicted.

Also, a notice issued Tuesday by local authorities said that registration procedures need to be imposed on those buying and selling dangerous chemicals out of workplace safety concern.

In addition, certificates authorizing purchase issued by public security administrations would be necessary to buy toxic chemical products.

Meanwhile, the building built and named for Rebiya Kadeer in Urumqi, is scheduled to be demolished for security risks.

The demolishing notice was sent to vendors in the building on July 22. Despite government's efforts to repair it in 2006, the building is still not safe, according to Xinhua.

Hou told the Global Times that the demolition decision was made out of concern for safety.

Hou also expressed regrets Tuesday over an alleged beating of three Hong Kong journalists in the city last week, but noted that they had violated local regulations.

"We are regretful over the incident," she told Xinhua.

"Of the three journalists, only one had a temporary press card that allowed him to conduct interviews in the city, but the other two didn't have. They violated our regulations," she said.

She said the journalists failed to show their press cards and refused to leave despite security personnel's repeated requests.

"Under such circumstances, the security personnel detained the three of them," Hou said.

However, she did not confirm whether a beating, as claimed by the three journalists, was involved in the detention process, but said "something that everybody doesn't want to see took place."

Hou also stressed local authorities would maintain the media openness policy that has been employed after the riot, and security personnel would also protect journalists who conduct interviews while complying with local regulations.

Liang Chen and An Baijie contributed to this story