Thousands of troops, backed by tanks and metal barricades, patrolled the western city of Urumqi today after five people died in protests over a series of bizarre needle attacks that China's police chief has blamed on Muslim separatists.
The hypodermic needle attacks have unnerved a population already shaken by ethnic rioting two months ago that the government said left nearly 200 people dead. The day marked the two-month anniversary of the rioting, the region's worst ethnic violence in decades.
Paramilitary police manned checkpoints on streets around government and Communist Party headquarters, where security forces fired tear gas yesterday to disperse angry crowds of Han Chinese, the country's majority ethnic group, who say the government isn't doing enough to protect them from extremists among the native Uighur population.
Entrances to the city's Muslim quarter remained blocked by thousands of troops backed by heavy metal barricades and tanks.
Traffic was barred from much of the downtown area in the city of 2.5 million, and many shops were closed.
There were no updated figures for the number of needle attacks, but unconfirmed reports of new incidents continued to spread through agitated crowds.