False knife hacking report panics Chinese

Last updated 18:15 15/03/2014
CALM NOW: People ran for safety after a suspected pickpocket starting yelling about hackings in Guangzhou.

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A false report of knife hackings had crowds running in the southern city of Guangzhou on Saturday, a day after a knife fight between food peddlers in another Chinese city left six dead.

People dashed for safety when a suspected pickpocket in Guangzhou — who was being questioned by police — falsely shouted about hackings, Guangzhou police said.

The jitteriness came a day after the knife fight between two food stall owners in Changsha, also in southern China, left five people hacked to death and one person fatally shot by police.

Security concerns were already high after a knife attack two weeks ago in which 29 people were killed and 140 others wounded in an incident blamed on ethnic Muslim Uighur separatists at the Kunming train station.

Unlike the Kunming attack, Friday’s violence appeared to stem from a personal dispute, but it may reinforce public prejudice against the Uighurs as the food vendors are believed to be Uighurs.

Police did not identify them as such, but a witness who gave only his surname, Chen, said the stand operators were Uighurs selling flatbread. Online news reports posted early Friday that said they were Uighurs were later removed.

The crowd reaction in Guangzhou was the second such incident. On Friday, in Chengdu, in the center of China, dozens of shoppers at a busy mall fled in a panic because of false rumors of a knifing spree that were circulating online, Chengdu police said.

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

In Beijing, the police have beefed up security in patrolling areas with heavy traffic, such as malls, transportation hubs and popular tourist sites.

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- AP

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