By Royston Chan
URUMQI, China, Sept 8 (Reuters) - Three buildings owned by the family of exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer in Urumqi will be demolished, Xinhua news agency said, as the Chinese government attempts to reassert control over the ethnically-divided city.
The government ordered shops and businesses in central Urumqi to close early on Monday, giving rise to a wave of rumours of new unrest among citizens panicked by mysterious needle attacks.
Police received another 77 reports of needle attacks between Sunday evening and Monday evening, despite threatened punishments for both attackers and rumour-mongerers, Xinhua said. A Han Chinese crowd also tried to beat up a Uighur on Monday after another alleged needle attack.
Streets were empty on Monday evening, under heavy security.
Thousands of Han Chinese demonstrated in Urumqi last week, calling for the ouster of regional party secretary Wang Lequan for failing to ensure their safety and for not moving ahead on trials for rioters charged after July 5, when 197 people died in Uighur rioting. Two other officials were sacked.
The Akida Trade Center, a building full of Uighur shops owned by the Akida Industry and Trade Co founded by Kadeer, were slated for demolition due to cracks in the walls and sunken footings, Xinhua said, confirming a report on Aug. 19 by the Uyghur American Association.
More than 30 members of Kadeer’s family, including siblings, children and grandchildren, had been living on upper floors of the building, the UAA said.
The Akida company building and the Tuanjie, or Unity, theater, would also be torn down, Xinhua said. Those properties were also owned by Kadeer and her family.
At least two of Kadeer’s sons who are still in China are in jail, while a daughter is under house arrest. Her oldest son manages her business interests in China.
(Writing by Lucy Hornby; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)