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Xinjiang riots over 'syringe stabbings'

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Is China’s volatile western Xinjiang province headed for violence again?

Fresh unrest broke out there Thursday as hundreds of Han Chinese protested in the capital, Urumqi, and there were unconfirmed reports that some of them had beaten up Uighur residents. The demonstrators are said to be angry over state media reports that unknown assailants in Urumqi have been stabbing residents with syringes.

Ethnic riots in July between its Muslim-majority Uighurs and ethnic Han Chinese shut down the capital and left nearly 200 dead and 1,700 injured. It was one of China’s worst ethnic riots in decades.

The reaction to reported syringe stabbings underscores how fresh the wounds of July remain. The prospect of more unrest comes at a sensitive time for China, as it gears up to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the founding of the communist state next month.

Reports from Xinjiang suggest the protests are growing, according to the Associated Press:

People near the city center reached by telephone say hundreds, possibly thousands, of members of China's majority Han ethnic group have gathered downtown to denounce the regional government and deteriorating law and order in the city.
Han resident Zhao Jianzhuang said he had joined a large crowd of protesters at a downtown intersection who were being blocked by riot police from marching on central People's Square, less than 1 mile (1.6 kilometers) away.
He said people were pushing and shoving police and some in the crowd had been beaten. Participants were shouting slogans including "The government is useless," and calling for the dismissal of the regional Communist Party boss Wang Lequan, a noted hard-liner and ally of President Hu Jintao.

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