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China sacks riot-hit Urumqi's party head

Li Zhi presided over the city during the deadly unrest on July 5.

News18test sharma |

Updated:September 6, 2009, 10:41 AM IST
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China sacks riot-hit Urumqi's party head
Li Zhi presided over the city during the deadly unrest on July 5.
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Urumqi (China): China sacked the top official of the strife-torn city of Urumqi as well as the regional police chief on Saturday, as the town crept back to uneasy calm after days of sometimes deadly protests that inflamed ethnic enmity.

The official Xinhua news agency did not explain why the city's Communist Party Secretary, Li Zhi, was replaced by Zhu Hailun, head of Xinjiang region's law and order committee.

But Li presided over the city during deadly unrest on July 5 when a protest by Muslim Uighurs, who call Xinjiang their homeland, gave way to deadly rioting that left 197 people dead, most of them members of China's majority Han ethnic group.

Urumqi was put under heavy security again this week after three days of fresh unrest, as thousands of Han Chinese residents protested over a rash of reported syringe stabbings they blamed on Uighurs, a minority in the city.

Officials said five people died in protests on Thursday. Xinjiang police chief Liu Yaohua was replaced by Zhu Changjie, party chief of Xinjiang's Aksu Prefecture.

The sackings could feed more speculation about the future of Wang Lequan, the regional Communist Party boss, who has barely appeared in state media in the past couple of days, after he pleaded from a balcony with Han crowds demanding his ouster.

"They should replace Wang Lequan ... Of course this will not be totally fair, but we wish to have a secure environment," said a resident.

Troops used tear gas to break up a group of people, apparently Han Chinese, gathered near city government offices in Urumqi on Saturday morning, Cable TV of Hong Kong reported.

But shops, buses and roads also began to come back to life, watched over by thousands of police and anti-riot troops. Many were posted at entrances to Uighur neighbourhoods.

The spasm of unrest has alarmed the central government, coming less than a month before China marks the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People's Republic on October 1.

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