Urumqi party chief, Xinjiang police chief sacked after protests

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The party chief of Urumqi and police chief of northwest China's Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region were removed from their posts Saturday.

The removal came after the July 5 riot in Urumqi which left 197 people dead and following syringe attacks in the city that caused panic among the public.

Li Zhi, 59, secretary of the Urumqi Municipal Committee of the Communist Party of China (CPC), was replaced by Zhu Hailun, 51, secretary of the CPC Xinjiang Autonomous Regional Political and Legislative Affairs Committee, according to a decision by the CPC Xinjiang Autonomous Regional Committee and approved by the CPC Central Committee.

Li was appointed the Urumqi party chief in November, 2006.

Also on Saturday, Xinjiang's police chief Liu Yaohua was replaced by Zhu Changjie, party chief of Xinjiang's Aksu Prefecture.

Syringe attacks

Fresh protests broke out this week after hundreds of Urumqi residents reported that they were stabbed by syringes. Five people were dead and at least 14 people hospitalized over injuries in the protests.

Tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest against the syringe attacks and demand security guarantees.

By Thursday, local hospitals had dealt with 531 victims of hypodermic syringe stabbings, 106 of whom showed obvious signs of needle attacks.

Chinese military medical experts on Saturday ruled out the possibility that radioactive substance, anthrax and toxic chemical were used in recent syringe attacks in Urumqi City.

"According to the preliminary test results, such possibilities can be ruled out," said Qian Jun, director of Disease Control and Biological Security Office with China's Academy of Military Medical Sciences.

Qian said he, along with other five medical experts from the military, had examined medical records of more than 200 victims since Friday.

Samples had been sent to Beijing for further test, Qian added.

Xinjiang police has captured 25 suspects amid the syringe scare, of whom seven are in police custody, four were arrested and four others were referred for criminal prosecution.

Four suspects, three men and one woman, have been prosecuted for endangering public security, said Wutkur Abdurahman, procurator general of the city's procuratorate Saturday.

The four, all from the Uygur ethnic group, were involved in three cases.

Two suspects threatened a taxi driver with a syringe and robbed him, one suspect allegedly inserted a pin into a woman's buttock at a roadside fruit stall, and the other injured police when resisting arrest with a syringe that contained drug.

Social order back to normal

Xinhua reporters witnessed Saturday that most of the buses in Urumqi had resumed operation. People could be seen on buses, some of which were even a bit crowded. Many were waiting at bus stops.

A large number of customers could be seen at the Carrefour Supermarket at Nanhunanlu Road. Long queues were seen in front of the cashiers at noon.

In Hepingnanlu Road and Xinhuananlu Road, areas mainly inhabited by people of Uygur ethnic group, shops on both sides of the roads have resumed operation.

Situation in Urumqi came under control Friday, as there were no major protests in the city. Small crowds, which gathered "in a few locations," were soon dispersed, said Executive Deputy Mayor Zhang Hong.

(Xinhua News Agency September 6, 2009)

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