Chinese media: Urumqi’s syringe stabbers strike again

Police reported 77 new needle attacks in 24 hours, a state paper said. Similar news last week prompted huge protests and fear of more ethnic clashes. But some questioned how rampant the attacks really were.

By , Correspondent

Fresh reports of more syringe attacks have swept through Urumqi, the capital of China’s Xinjiang Province. Thousands of ethnic Han Chinese staged demonstrations last week after reports surfaced earlier that ethnic Uighurs were behind a rash of syringe attacks.

As reports of new attacks surface, and as some continue to question if the whole thing is a hoax, the Chinese government issued a stinging statement calling the attacks acts of terrorism carried out by organized criminals.

True or not, the new reports threaten to undo the tenuously restored calm.

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The China Daily reported the new attacks on Wednesday:

Police said they received 77 reports of syringe attacks between 5 pm Sunday and 5 pm Monday in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, despite authorities warning attackers they might face the death penalty.
So far, police have caught 45 suspects during the syringe scare, of whom 12 remain in police custody. The procuratorate has approved the arrests of four. Eight people have been sent to drug rehab, according to Urumqi police authorities.

As new reports surface, a blogger at Chinese Digital Times cites this Toronto Star account questioning the veracity of the original reports:

But days after reports of the attacks in state media, credible evidence seems in short supply. Some are questioning whether there were any organized attacks at all.
[...] "Some of those who said they had been stabbed actually suffered from mosquito stings and other psychogenic reasons," Xinhua said.
Other agency reports noted that of the four people officially charged last week, most were drug addicts involved in acts of plain criminality.

But the Chinese government says it’s no hoax, according to this report in the Xinhua news agency:

"The attacks are copies of violent terrorist crimes," said Du Xintao, an official with the regional Public Security Department, at a press conference.
The recent syringe attacks were neither some individuals' practical jokes, nor simple criminal activities, but organized and planned major adverse events, which had disturbed social order and created an atmosphere of fear, Du said.

Xinhua also cited an official statement that hospitals in Urumqi have treated 531 victims of syringe attacks. It added that "four suspects allegedly committing syringe attacks in Urumqi were prosecuted Monday for spreading false dangerous substances, local authorities said Tuesday."

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