A lot has changed since we last reported on the recent syringe stabbings in Xinjiang. First, remember how we said that only a handful of people had been stabbed? Well, it turns out that the actual number is around 470, according to a recent post from AGI News in Beijing. What’s worse, CCTV reported that the needles are now presumed to have been filled with AIDS contaminated blood. As a result, government officials have claimed the attacks were carried out by members of the Uyghur minority, which triggered a spat of protests by Han Chinese for more forceful persecution of Uyghur separatists related to the original protests in July.
From AGI News:
“Public Security Minister Meng Jianzhu, who arrived in Urumqi to direct the police action, said the same ethnic separatists Beijing says were behind the rioting that started July 5 also orchestrated the needle attacks.
“The needle stabbing incident is a continuation of the ‘7-5’ incident, and it’s plotted by unlawful elements and instigated by ethnic separatist forces,” Meng said in comments broadcast on nationwide television. “Their purpose is to damage ethnic unity.”
Meng provided no evidence to back up his charges, nor has the government substantiated accusations that separatists incited July’s violence. By most accounts, the riot started after police confronted protesters from the Muslim Uighur ethnic group, who then attacked Han Chinese.”
But that’s not all – public outrage at the mistreatment of the ethnic violence has provoked anger at the government, with protesters demanding the resignation of top party officials in the region. Beijing has already sacked two of the highest party officials in Xinjiang, but it remains to be seen whether the party secretary of the region, Wang Lequan, will remain.
Helping Wang’s cause is that he happens to have been classmates with Hu Jintao and remain close friends. But if things escalate, even that may not be enough to save his job.
From the Washington Post:
“Beijing has long relied on Wang to make sure that the long-standing discontent among Xinjiang’s Muslim Uighur population does not spread and thus pose a threat to broader political stability in China. The July riots and the ongoing protests have damaged that trust. The Communist Party is even more determined to maintain stability than usual as it prepares to reaffirm its grip on power with celebrations of the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China on Oct. 1.
That is why on the streets of Urumqi, the theory is that Wang has less than a month left in office. Many Xinjiang residents believe he must be in trouble with Beijing since he has not appeared on state television since last week’s protests.
But analysts say removing Wang would be close to impossible. “As a provincial party chief, you will only be demoted if you’re corrupt or if you’re dead,” said Russell Leigh Moses, a Beijing-based political analyst. “
China has stated that anyone convicted of syringe stabbing could face the death penalty. Whether that will be enough to quell the riots and public unrest remains to be seen.