Five Chinese killed in protests over security

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The Independent Online

Five people have been killed and 14 wounded during protests over security in the restive western city of Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang.

The report from the city's deputy mayor came as thousands of Han Chinese flooded the streets for a second day in angry protests to demand increased security in the city after a string of bizarre attacks of needle stabbings on dozens of people that appear to be ethnically motivated.

Police used tear gas and public appeals to break up the crowds marching on government offices. The protesters were calling on authorities to punish people awaiting trial for communal violence that left 197 people dead in early July in Urumqi.

The police response to the protests was more forceful than on Thursday, the first day of demonstrations by members of by the Han Chinese majority unnerved by the syringe stabbings on dozens of people.

The Public Security Minister, Meng Jianzhu, who arrived in Urumqi to direct the police action, said the same ethnic separatists that Beijing said were behind the rioting that started on 5 July also orchestrated the needle attacks.

"The needle stabbing incident is a continuation of the 5 July incident, and it's plotted by unlawful elements and instigated by ethnic separatist forces," Mr Meng said in comments broadcast on nationwide television. "Their purpose is to damage ethnic unity," he claimed.

Mr Meng provided no evidence to back up his charges, nor has the government substantiated accusations that separatists incited July's violence. By most accounts, the riot started after police confronted protesters from the Muslim Uighur ethnic group, who then attacked Han Chinese.

But the Xinjiang region, where Urumqi is located, has for decades faced a simmering separatist movement by Uighurs, a largely Muslim ethnic group.