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Asia-pacific

Government blames 'ethnic separatists' for syringe attack

Video by Yuka ROYER

Text by NEWS WIRES

Latest update : 2009-09-05

Five people were killed during violent protests in the western city of Urumqi as tensions between the Han Chinese and Uighur communities flared over a spate of syringe attacks instigated by "ethnic separatists", according to Chinese officials.

REUTERS - Unrest in Urumqi, the capital of China’s frontier Xinjiang region, is testing Chinese security forces as Han Chinese demonstrators impugn their loyalty, two months after deadly ethnic rioting on July 5.

On Saturday, the city center was once again under heavy security and roads were blocked to cars after three days of protests this week.

Troops used tear gas on two occasions on Friday to stop the crowds, after five people died in demonstrations on Thursday when crowds called for the regional party secretary to resign for not ensuring better security after a spate of syringe attacks.

Han Chinese seeking to break into Uighur neighbourhoods or march on government offices called security forces “traitors” and “turncoats” for blocking their way, with older men often making emotional appeals directly to police and paramilitary troops to let them through.

The unrest this week in Urumqi is unusual in that it is a sustained challenge by the Han Chinese who make up the majority of China’s population.

Security forces have been patrolling Uighur neighbourhoods since July, and occupied Tibetan areas for months in a show of force after demonstrations against Chinese rule in March 2008.

“When they curse us, we feel wronged and heartbroken,” a plainclothes military cameraman said on Friday.

“We are also here to protect the people. Still, they ask why we are suppressing them when we didn’t protect them on July 5.”

Date created : 2009-09-05

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