The panic caused by widespread reports of stabbings with syringe needles in public places of Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang Autonomous Region of China, has started subsiding, with no reports of stabbings on September 10 and 11,2009. To reduce the panic, the local authorities, with the help of doctors and psychiatrists from the People's Liberation Army (PLA), have made arrangements for psychological counselling in the hospitals of the city. Of the above 500 cases reported since August 17,2009, only about 25 per cent were genuine with signs of injury caused by a needle during the physical examination by doctors. In the remaining 75 per cent of the cases, the physical examination reportedly revealed nothing.
2. The authorities continue to disseminate warnings through vehicles fitted with a public address system that needle-stabbings would be treated as premeditated acts of terrorism and would invite the death penalty, if convicted before a court of law.
3.The Urumqi Police have so far arrested 48 persons---all Uighurs--- on suspicion of their involvement in needle-stabbings.While reports----true as well as false--- of needle stabbings have declined dramatically in Urumqui, reports of needle-stabbings have started coming from different parts of the interior.There have been six reports from Hotan, two from Altay and one from Kashgar.
4.The needle-attacks, the Han demonstrations of last week against the failure of the police to stop the attacks and fears (not corroborated) that the needles used might have been tipped in slow-acting poison have had a dramatic impact on tourism at a time when it had started recovering from the negative impact of the July 5 riots by Uighurs.According to Chi Chongqing, of the Xinjiang Tourism Bureau,
quoted by the Government-controlled Xinhua news agency on September 10,the average occupancy rate at star-rated hotels in Xinjiang has plunged from 85 to 25 per cent. A total of 76 tourist groups have canceled planned trips to Xinjiang, involving 3,358 would-be travelers, in the first week of September. (12-9-09)
( The writer is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute for Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: email@example.com )