Beijing (AsiaNews / Agencies) - Today in Urumqi, capital of Xinjiang, restrictions on traffic have been removed: private cars and public transport is moving regularly, many shops are open and many people have returned to the streets. At least 600 police officers patrol the roads and thousands more are ready to step in after protests caused violent clashes with at least 5 dead and 14 wounded two days ago. Hantenggeli mosque in the city centre, closed yesterday despite the Islamic holidays, for fear of clashes, has been reopened.
Tens of thousands protested on September 3, mainly ethnic Han, worried about mysterious attacks by unknown persons armed with hypodermic syringes with which they "stabbed" passersby. The media have spoken of 513 injuries since mid-August. Assurance from authorities that no one has been infected or poisoned, and that does not appear that the syringes contain harmful substances has not been enough. There is no definite news of the clashes: the deputy mayor Zhang Hong has only added that among the 5 "dead in the clashes," were "2 innocent people", without giving further explanation.
Yesterday there were more protests and the police used barricades and launched tear gas to prevent thousands penetrating Uyghur neighbourhoods.
Public opinion among Han and even local officials blame the attacks on the minority Uyghur. The Minister of Public Security Meng Jianzhu, who was in Urumqi yesterday to better monitor the situation, says that these attacks want to damage the unity of the city and are "instigated by ethnic separatist forces," as a continuation of protests in July. Then tens of thousands of Uyghurs took to the streets to protest against their mistreatment and marginalization. Peaceful demonstrations turned into open clashes with police and the Han population, with nearly 200 deaths, mostly Han, and thousands injured.
The Chinese authorities have encouraged the immigration of Han to the region, allocating them seats of power and facilitating them in trade. Now the Han are in the majority in the province and the native Uyghur feel strangers in their home and accuse Beijing of trying to force their language and traditions into extinction and of taking away oil and other natural resources for the benefit of other provinces. The tension between the ethnic groups has been growing for years, but there had never been as violent protests as those in July.