Late last night it was announced that Urumqi Communist Party Chief Li Zhi was sacked along with the police chief for the latest bizarre attacks in the area involving random people being stabbed with syringes. The contents inside the syringes have yet to be identified, but of the 531 who went to hospitals claiming to have been stabbed, only 106 actually had wounds consistent to being jabbed.
This shows hysteria still reigns in the capital city of the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region.
There were also mass protests in the streets in recent days, complaining not enough has been done to clamp down on the syringe attacks, calling for the resignation of Li Zhi and his boss, Wang Lequan, who is the party secretary and ally to President Hu Jintao. Wang has been managing Xinjiang for 15 years, and apparently Hu likes his hardline approach.
China analysts say firing Li shows the government is serious about dealing with the issue, but doesn't want to sack Wang, as he is too close to Hu. If he was fired, it would signal Hu's policies and his people were not doing a good job, thus weakening his own power base.
It's interesting that Li and Liu Yaohua, director of the Xinjiang Autonomous Regional Public Security Department were sacked now, and not two months ago, when the riots first erupted.
Apparently they knew the July protests were being organized, but did nothing about it. Isn't that a good enough reason to sack them earlier?
Or the government got nervous after Han Chinese, not Uighurs, were protesting against them.
Beijing tries hard not to look like it's bowing to public pressure, but in this case, it had to do something in the restive area.
Everyone knows more needs to be done, but the latest sackings are probably the most the government is willing to do now.
Only time will tell.