China says 75 suspects held over far-west needle scare

Tue Sep 15, 2009 9:31am EDT

BEIJING (Reuters) – Police have detained 75 suspects accused of joining in an wave of needle-stabbing attacks that authorities say have spread across ethnically-tense Xinjiang region in China’s northwest, state radio reported on Tuesday.

Most detentions over the needle scare were concentrated in Urumqi, the regional capital, where Han Chinese residents rioted this month after accusing the government of failing to stamp out syringe attacks by Muslim Uighurs in late August.

The radio report said police had caught 75 suspects involved in 36 attacks. The region’s top crime investigator, Huang Yabo, said 19 cases were in Urumqi and 13 in Hotan, also called Hetian, in southern Xinjiang, where Uighurs outnumber Han Chinese.

Huang said other cases occurred in mostly Uighur towns with a history of ethnic unrest.

Riots swept Urumqi in July, killing at least 197 people, mostly Han Chinese. Police had earlier stopped demonstrations by Uighurs in protest at the deaths of two of their kin, attacked by Han co-workers in southern China.

Xinjiang’s population is divided mainly between the Uighurs, long the region’s majority group, and Han Chinese, many of whom moved there in recent decades and now make up about half the population. Most urban residents of Urumqi are Han.

On Saturday, a court in Urumqi announced jail sentences of up to 15 years against three stabbing suspects — the first to appear before a judge over the scare.

(Reporting by Yu Le and Chris Buckley; Editing by Ron Popeski)

[original]

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