HONG KONG—Police in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen have arrested seven Han Chinese men in connection with the stabbing death of an ethnic minority Uyghur laborer.
An officer with the Nanyuan branch of the Futian district Public Security Bureau (PSB) confirmed the arrests Sunday in a telephone interview.
“The incident occurred over at Bagualing. All seven suspects have been apprehended. Two of them, including a man surnamed Dong, aged 37, were arrested while they were in a clinic seeking treatment,” the officer said.
The Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region (XUAR), homeland to the mostly Muslim Uyghur people, is strategically located in Central Asia.
In recent years it has been plagued by bombings, attacks, and riots that the Chinese authorities blame on Uyghur separatists.
A PSB officer in Bagualing said only that authorities had set up a special task force to handle the case and that “the investigation is ongoing.”
A local resident who asked not to be named said numerous people witnessed the stabbing, which occurred late Wednesday.
“The case involves a Xinjianger. The police are worried that it would lead to riots; that’s why the suspects were apprehended so soon after the killing,” the resident said.
“Also, there are security video cameras everywhere on the streets of Shenzhen. And there were many eyewitnesses to the incident. That’s why the suspects were caught so soon.”
The stabbing echoed an ethnic clash at a Guangdong factory last June that triggered the bloodiest riots in Xinjiang in decades.
The South China Morning Post, a Hong Kong English-language daily, described tightened security around the neighborhood and the removal of trees near the restaurant where the killing occurred to install surveillance cameras.
All seven suspects worked for a security company, the newspaper said, adding that Shenzhen's government also deployed police officers and two cars to carry out round-the-clock surveillance outside the restaurant to prevent any possible unrest.
The owner of the Xinjiang restaurant in Futian district, a Uyghur who declined to be named, said he would close the Silu Xinjiang Barbeque Restaurant and take all the Uyghurs working there back to Xinjiang.
Hongtaide Property Management Co., which employs the seven Han men, dismissed all of them for fear of retaliation by Uyghurs, it said.
A clash between Uyghur and Han workers at a factory in Shaoguan left two Uyghur workers dead and 118 injured in June, prompting rioting by the two ethnic groups in the XUAR capital, Urumqi, in July that left almost 200 people dead.
Security remains tight in Xinjiang, with Internet and telephone services extremely limited for most of the region's 20 million people.
Original reporting by Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin service. Translated from the Chinese by Mandarin service director Jennifer Chou. Written in English by Sarah Jackson-Han.