China's Public Security Minister Meng Jianzhu labeled maintaining stability as "the central task of overriding importance" in Xinjiang, as situation in Urumqi City came under control Friday.
Meng, who arrived in Urumqi Friday, a day after five people died in massive protests against syringe attacks Thursday, urged local governments and Communist Party of China (CPC) committees at all levels in Xinjiang "to restore social order as soon as possible."
"Maintaining stability is the central task of overriding importance in Xinjiang at the present time," he said.
Tens of thousands of people in Urumqi took to streets on Thursday to protest against syringe attacks, and the city did not quiet down until late in the night.
Situation was under control Friday, as there were no major protests in the city, said Executive Deputy Mayor Zhang Hong.
Small crowds, which gathered "in a few locations" Friday, were soon dispersed and nobody was killed, said Zhang.
Stability of overriding importance
The recent syringe attacks, which were premeditated, masterminded and conducted by law-breakers and instigated by ethnic separatist forces, were a continuation of the July 5 incident in the city, Meng said.
"By creating chaos, the law-breakers aimed to undermine the current stability and unity," Meng said.
The syringe attacks came less than two months after the July 5 Urumqi riot when 197 people, mostly from the Han ethnic group, were killed, and 1,600 others injured.
"They plotted to undermine ethnic unity and stir up ethnic division. Fellow citizens of all ethnic groups in Xinjiang should sharpen their vigilance and not be fooled by law-breakers," Meng said Friday.
"Social stability is the guarantee and precondition of Xinjiang's development. Without it, nothing can be accomplished and everything we have achieved will be lost," he said.
Meng said those involved in violence, assaults, vandalism, looting and burning, and those who disrupt social order by different means or undermine ethnic unity, shall be punished according to the law without exception, whatever their ethnicity is.
Syringe attacks carried out since Aug. 20 have resulted in panic and resentment from the public, the official said.
By Thursday, local hospitals had dealt with 531 victims of hypodermic syringe stabbings, 106 of whom showed obvious signs of needle attacks.
Suspects were caught Wednesday when attacking members of the public. They were beaten by a angry crowd and one was seriously injured.
Five people have been confirmed dead and 14 others injured and hospitalized following Thursday's protests, Zhang said.
Of the five dead, two had been confirmed as innocent civilians, while police are trying to identify the remaining three.
Investigation had showed those involved in the syringe attacks were from the Uygur ethnic group while those attacked included people from Han and other ethnic groups.
Xinjiang police has captured 25 syringe attackers, of whom seven are in police custody, four were arrested and four others were referred for criminal prosecution, the Xinjiang regional government sources said Friday.
"The 'three forces' (separatism, terrorism and extremism) at home and abroad are not willing to see ethnic unity and their failure when the July 5 violence died down quickly," he said. "So they are using 'soft violence' to disrupt social order and instigate ethnic hatred."
(Xinhua News Agency September 5, 2009)