Stronger police presence urged in wake of recent knife attacks

Updated: 2014-03-17 03:16

By He Dan (China Daily)

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Public security authorities called on Sunday for a stronger police presence on the streets and more proactive measures to handle emergencies, following two recent knife attacks that led to deaths and injuries of innocent people and triggered several false rumors that had people running in panic in some cities.

Public security departments should organize armed forces to patrol regularly on the streets, and they should beef up scrutiny in public places, including bus and train stations, airports, subways, schools and shopping areas, according to an online statement released on Sunday by the Ministry of Public Security.

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The ministry urged police to respond to the public's calls for help at any time and to respond rapidly to all kinds of emergencies.

A personal dispute between two shop workers led to a knife fight that escalated and resulted in the deaths of six people in Hunan province on Friday morning.

The knife fight broke out between Hebir Turdi and Memet Abla, two Uygur employees of a bakery, at about 10:15 am at Shahuqiao Market in Changsha, the provincial capital.

A police investigation found that Turdi, 21, had started to work at the bakery after he arrived in Changsha on Feb 1. He quarreled a lot with his colleague Abla, 22, and often disobeyed the boss.

After arguing on Friday, Turdi and Abla chased each other on the street, each holding a knife from the bakery.

Turdi hacked Abla to death and then hacked four passers-by as he ran away. Police arrived at the scene minutes later and shot Turdi to death as he tried to flee and then attempted to assault the police officers. Two of the wounded passers-by died at the scene; the two others died in a hospital.

Security concerns were already high after the terrorist attack at Kunming Railway Station in Yunnan province left 29 dead and more than 140 injured on March 1.

Over the weekend, police in Chengdu, Sichuan province, punished three people for spreading rumors of a knife attack at a shopping area that led to a crowd fleeing in panic and shops being closed.

On Friday afternoon, dozens of shoppers at a busy mall had fled in panic because of false rumors of a knifing spree that were circulating online, Chengdu police said.

An 18-year-old boy was placed under criminal detention for allegedly fabricating terrorism information online that received more than 100,000 hits and was reposted widely, according to police. Also investigated were a 21-year-old female student who spread false information online and a shopkeeper who falsely reported a fire.

"Because of the incident that happened in Changsha, people started to panic and run. But actually, nothing had happened," said a Chengdu police official surnamed Xiang.

One day after the incident in Chengdu, another false report of knife hackings had crowds running in the southern city of Guangzhou.

On Saturday, people scrambled for safety when a suspected pickpocket in Guangzhou, who was being questioned by police, began shouting falsely about hackings, Guangzhou police said.

On the same day, police in Guangzhou rushed to restore order in a shopping mall in the city's Liwan district where two arguing shoppers became violent, and nearby shoppers who did not know what was going on began to run and hide.

Dai Peng, director of the Criminal Investigation Department at People's Public Security University of China, said it is normal for the public to be sensitive to rumors of an emergency, given the intense media coverage about the recent fatal attacks.

"It takes time for the public to rebuild a sense of safety, and it is vital for the government to handle urgent situations properly and take more proactive measures to beef up security," he said.

He urged the government to harshly punish rumor spreaders according to law and improve public awareness about how to protect oneself in emergencies, including terrorist attacks.

Xinhua contributed to this story.