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Urumqi residents hand in weapons after attack

(China Daily)

08:49, July 15, 2013

In response to terrorist attacks in the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, police have been offering rewards for dangerous weapons since July 2. Nearly 5,000 knives and 1,500 bullets have been turned in to police since then.(Cui Meng / China Daily)

Thousands of knives, bullets have been turned in to police since July 2

500 bullets have been turned in to police in Urumqi, capital of the Xinjiang Uygur autonomous region, since July 2, when the region began offering rewards for long knives, guns and other dangerous weapons.

"Many people contacted us about turning in restricted items after the notice was issued," said Lin Hao, an officer with Urumqi's public security bureau's security detachment, on Sunday.

"They said they knew having guns and bullets in their houses is a danger to both the public and themselves, but they feared they would be punished for possession if they had handed them in. The main purpose of the notice was to clear people's doubts about punishment for having them."

Xinjiang police issued the notice after a June 26 terrorist attack involving long knives in Lukqun township, Turpan prefecture. Thirty-five people were killed in the incident.

The notice said those who handed in "restricted knives" — those with blades more than 15 cm long — would get market value for the weapons, while the compensation for guns would be 100 yuan ($16.30) to 200 yuan.

Firearms possession in Xinjiang has a historical precedent, Lin said.

"In the past, many people in Urumqi, especially herdsmen, had shotguns for protection against wild animals. Also, security guards of big factories were all armed in the 1950s and 1960s and might have kept the weapons due to management loopholes," Lin said.

"As long as people can explain why they have guns and bullets, they won't be punished."

Police of Shayibake district, under the jurisdiction of the Urumqi public security authority, said last week that they had taken in 2,395 knives and 43 guns from July 1 to 8.

On July 10, police in Kuitun, in the Ily Kazak autonomous prefecture, gave 2,356 yuan to a resident who handed in three pistols and 413 bullets. The guns and bullets had been collected by his father-in-law, who had been in the military and died in 2011. The resident found the pistols and bullets while cleaning the basement of a house.

Lin recalled one unusual call from an elderly man who wanted to hand in weapons.

"We got a call on July 4 from a retired factory security guard who is almost 90 years old, saying he has guns and bullets somewhere in his house but he couldn't remember where he put them. We were all surprised about how many bullets were stored in his house, " Lin said.

He added that the department also got a tip on terror-related activates that led to two arrests but declined to elaborate because the case is still being investigated. The Xinjiang Public Security Department also issued a notice on July 1 offering rewards of 50,000 to 100,000 yuan for tips that help solve cases involving violence and terrorism.

Yisakjon Asan, 29, a police officer with the Nanguan station, has been posting the notices around the communities and explaining the reward to residents.

"People have some specific questions such as if the length of a restricted knife includes the handle. Recently, a resident of Shanxixiang community handed in more than 150 restricted knives to us," he said.

The Nanguan police station is in charge of the Erdaoqiao area of Urumqi, which is like the Tian'anmen area of central Beijing, said Yu Xinhong, deputy director of the police station.

"It's a must-visit place for people all over Xinjiang, so the daily population could reach 100,000, while the number of permanent residents is about 32,000. The area's stability is crucial to Urumqi," Yu said. The area has more than 100 knife vendors, he added.

Lin said most of the restricted knives sold in the market are made in Zhejiang province, and the crackdown on restricted knives won't affect the sales of small handcrafted knives, which are a Uygur tradition and a favorite souvenir.

"People should also know the danger of selling restricted knives because they could also be the victims of violent crimes. The crackdown is for the safety of everyone," Lin said.

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