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Xinjiang tourism hard hit again by needle attacks
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The tourism industry in China's far western Xinjiang has been hard hit again by a string of bizarre needle stabbings in its capital Urumqi, a local official said Wednesday.

The Urumqi riot on July 5, which killed nearly 200 people, mostly ethnic Han people, had earlier dealt a heavy blow to the sector.

Chi Chongqing, Party chief of the Xinjiang tourism bureau, said the brief recovery of tourism in Xinjiang in August was due to government subsidies after the riot.

The average occupancy rate at star-rated hotels in Xinjiang had climbed to 85 percent before mass gatherings of residents in protest against needle attacks amid panic and anger.

The protests left four dead and 14 others in hospital.

The occupancy rate, however, has plunged to around 25 percent after the renewed tensions in the city, Chi said. A total of 76 tourist groups have canceled planned trips to Xinjiang, involving 3,358 would-be travelers, in the month to Sept. 8, he noted.

To revive the tourism industry after the Urumqi riot, the regional government allocated 5 million yuan (730,000 U.S. dollars) to subsidize travel agencies who arranged tourist groups to Xinjiang from July 6 to Aug. 31.

Chi added that the preferential policy may be extended to the end of October to give further boost to the tourism sector in the tourism peak season.

By Friday, local health and police authorities had confirmed 531 victims of hypodermic syringe stabbings, 171 of whom showed obvious signs of needle attacks. The majority of the victims are of the Han ethnic group and the minority are from the ethnic groups including Uygur, Hui and Kazak.

(Xinhua News Agency September 10, 2009)

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