Port Vila, Vanuatu (PressExposure) September 18, 2009 -- People in Hong Kong remain edgy and some streets closed, in Hong Kong's densest populated area, Mongkok, as acid attacks continue.
Mongkok has become almost a ghost town. The famous Ladies Market is normally filled with wall-to-wall people, in one of the highest ratios of pedestrian traffic in the world.
Two attackers flung acid at two passers-by, splashing other shoppers. Ten people were hurt. It was the third such attack in just six months.
In the earlier attacks, acid-filled bottles were thrown from a Mongkok building onto the pedestrians below, by unknown persons. Twenty-four people were left with burns to their faces, shoulders, limbs and feet.
Investigators have posted a 900,000 Hong Kong dollar ($116,097) reward for information leading to an arrest. Hong Kong leader Donald Tsang strongly criticized the attack, saying it was "cold-blooded and evil" and the assailant was "scum of the society".
Mongkok's normally chaotic streets now have dozens of police patrolling them, as the neighbourhood remains on full alert. It is not believed the last attack was linked to the former three attacks. One man has been taken into custody.
In the Zinjaing Province, mainland China, thousands of Han Chinese staged demonstrations after reports that ethnic Muslim Uighurs were behind a rash of hit-and-run syringe attacks. Five protesters died in the demonstration and 14 were injured. Security forces are on standby in the area, including helicopters, as demonstrators clash with police. Schools were closed and the city cordoned off.
As the long-simmering ethnic tensions erupted into riots tear gas was used to disperse several protesting, Han Chinese, following another alleged stabbing. The Han Chinese are the country's dominant ethnic group; the Uyghurs are a Turkic-speaking Muslim minority who consider Xinjiang their homeland.
In spite of the warning that offenders may face the death penalty, police have received 77 reports of syringe attacks. Over the past month more than 400 Han Chinese have been stabbed with tainted syringes.
Xinhua, a blogger at Chinese Digital Times, also quoted an official statement that hospitals in Urumqi have treated 531 victims of syringe attacks. "Some of those who said they had been stabbed actually suffered from mosquito stings and other psychogenic reasons", said Xinhua. Uighurs were among the victims.
Police have arrested 45 suspects with 12 remaining in custody. Three of the four people prosecuted are known drug users.
"People are angry that the government is not doing much about Ugyhurs' needle stabbing", said one local resident. The latest attacks come two months after inter-ethnic violence in Urumqui killed nearly 200 and injured 1,700.
According to the Central Asia Caucasus Institute at Johns Hopkins University in Maryland, Xinjiang serves as a convenient drug-trafficking route, lying between opium-growing regions of Afghanistan and southeast Asia and the heroin markets in central Asia, Russia and Europe. It is estimated that more than 60,000 people in Xinjiang are HIV-positive.
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