BEIJING (AFP) – Chinese police used tear gas to disperse fresh protests in the restive northwestern city of Urumqi on Friday, state media reported, one day after tens of thousands took to the streets here.
The Xinhua news agency said the latest protest occurred in the city centre at the entrance to Nanhu Square, where police were blocking about 1,000 protesters from entering. It did not give further details.
The brief report also said about 100 young protesters had massed on Jiefangnan Road near the Muslim quarter.
Earlier, an AFP journalist witnessed a separate protest involving about 1,000 demonstrators, most of themHan Chinese, who faced off with armed police, denouncing the government and throwing plastic bottles at security forces.
The demonstration took place about a block away from the Xinjiang region’s government headquarters in People’s Square, where mass protests involving tens of thousands erupted on Thursday.
The crowd repeatedly scuffled with riot police, shouting “Release him! Release him!” whenever they tried to subdue a protester who had challenged them.
At one point, protesters demanded the resignation of the regional Communist Party chief, yelling: “Wang Lequan, step down!”
Hundreds of regular and armed police reinforcements rushed to the scene and eventually dispersed the crowd, about one hour after the incident began. Not far from the scene, hundreds more security forces were on standby.
Armed police fanned out across the tense city on Friday, one day after tens of thousands of people protested over a series of mysterious syringe attacks that residents blame on the region’s Uighurs, a mostly Muslim ethnic group.
The tension comes two months after at least 197 people were killed in rioting on July 5, the worst ethnic violence seen in China in decades.
“The government is really lame. Everybody can see that now. It’s been two months and they still have not dealt with this properly. How can that be?” asked Wang Jinren, who watched Friday’s protest from his jade store.
“They have come up with no plan for dealing with these problems. They need to explain to the people how they are going to address this. But these problems are so big, maybe no one can solve them.”
During Friday’s confrontation near People’s Square, police using loudspeakers pleaded with the crowds to disperse.
“Friends, please listen. Urumqi’s safety situation has returned to normal.
“Please help us maintain stability by returning to your homes as soon as possible,” they said.
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