44 more Urumqi riot arrest warrants issued

Source: China Daily [16:46 September 12 2009]

Authorities have issued arrest warrants for a total of 237 suspects in connection with 139 crimes that took place during the deadly riot in Urumqi on July 5 - 44 more warrants than had been issued around one week earlier.

Police have requested that the local procuratorate approve the arrest of 295 suspects thought to have been involved in 175 crimes. The previous figure was 239 people involved in 140 cases, according to data released by the Urumqi municipal public security bureau.

But the number of people currently being prosecuted for riot-connected crimes remains unchanged at 51. Those people are facing trials in connection with 14 individual cases, the Xinhua News Agency website reported.

A total of 956 cases have been filed in connection to the July 5 riot in Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region. The riot left 197 people dead and more than 1,700 injured.

More than 2,000 police officers from Xinjiang and more than 40 criminal investigation experts from all over China are part of the investigation team.

While visiting a residential area in Urumqi on Thursday, Zhu Hailun, the new Party chief for the city, promised that violent offenders from the July 5 riot would receive severe punishment in accordance with Chinese laws.

"Stability is our top priority at hand," said Zhu. "The government will also crack down hard on violence, in accordance with laws, to protect the lives and property of people from all ethnic groups and to safeguard ethnic unity."

Li Zhi, the former Party chief in the city, was replaced last Saturday by Zhu, former secretary of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous regional political and legislative affairs committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC).

His removal came shortly after tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest about syringe attacks in Urumqi and to demand security guarantees.

Five people died and at least 14 were hospitalized as a result of the protests.

Another three syringe attack suspects - all Uygurs - were arrested in Urumqi this week, bringing the total number of syringe attack suspects in police custody to 48, according to Urumqi authorities.

All three arrests were made by armed police on Monday and Tuesday. The number of people seeking hospital treatment for suspected syringe attacks dropped dramatically this week, according to Urumqi hospital representatives.

By last Friday, Urumqi health and police authorities had confirmed 531 victims of hypodermic syringe stabbings. No deaths have been reported.

The series of syringe attacks in the city since Aug 20 have caused widespread panic and renewed tension in the city.

To ensure the safety of commuters, police and armed police were sent to escort passengers on buses in Urumqi after the protest as some syringe attacks were reportedly carried out on buses during rush hour.