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Urumqi returns to peaceful life after mass protests

LIFE in west China's Urumqi City, disrupted last week by mass protests triggered by hypodermic syringe attacks, had returned to normal today.

On the first day of the week, traffic increased on Guangming Road, downtown Urumqi, and there was sporadic congestion at different crossings. Bus No. 14 was packed with commuters.

Except on the side connected to the Urumqi city government compound, which is still guarded by armed police posts, shady Nanhu Plaza was full of people.

On one stretch of the plaza, more than 60 people, mainly senior citizens, were dancing to the tune of Paso Doble, while on another a father played badminton with his teenage son.

Dozens of other senior citizens were enjoying the serenity and angling on a pond at the other side of the plaza.

Liu Jinyao, 71, came from Shihezi to live with his daughter's family in Urumqi weeks ago.

"I come to Nanhu Plaza for exercise every day, like learning Latin dancing," said Liu, "The only difference several days back was that there were fewer people here."

Liu is by no means a worrywart. "Life will be soon be normal again anyway, so I need not worry about safety."

Jiangongxiang morning market in downtown Urumqi was bustling.

On sale were commodities ranging from seafood, meat, fresh fruits and vegetables, spices, pickles and kitchen utensils, to footwear and garments.

A woman shopper surnamed Hu complained Monday's vegetable prices were more expensive than recently but were on the whole acceptable.

Leisure-seeking crowds on Nanhu Plaza started to disperse at 9 a.m. Some of them were preparing to go to work, as offices in Urumqi begin work at 10 a.m. because of a two-hour time difference between Beijing and Urumqi.

Financial establishments such as outlets of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), Agricultural Bank of China, and the Urumqi Commercial Bank were all open for business Monday.

Some schools in the city remained closed.

An official from the educational department of Urumqi City said kindergartens, primary and middle schools, as well as privately run schools were told to stay closed.

Fresh protests broke out last week after the violent riot in the city on July 5, which left 197 people dead. Tens of thousands of people took to the streets to protest against a spate of hypodermic syringe attacks and demand security guarantees last Wednesday and Thursday.

Five people died and at least 14 people hospitalized for injuries during the protests.

By Thursday, hospitals had dealt with 531 victims of hypodermic syringe stabbings, 106 of whom showed obvious signs of needle attacks.

Xinjiang police have caught 25 suspects amid the syringe scare, of whom seven are in police custody, four were arrested and four others were referred for criminal prosecution.

Four suspects, three men and one woman, have been prosecuted for endangering public security, said Wutkur Abdurahman, procurator general of the city's procurator ate Saturday.


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