Treaty of Nanking

Needle attacks on Western women

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 June, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 June, 2002, 12:00am

Several foreign consulates in Shanghai have warned their citizens about shopping at the popular Xiangyang clothing market after three Westerners were stabbed with sewing needles.

Every day hundreds of tourists, foreigners living in Shanghai and local residents visit the market in the city centre to buy cheap clothes and other products, many of which are counterfeit name brands.

The three cases - the most recent just last week - involved people of different nationalities, but all were foreign women or girls, Western diplomats said.

'Please be alert,' one diplomatic mission told its citizens. There is no apparent motive in the attacks, none of which have been preceded with demands for money.

'It's not extortion. They're just jabbing people,' said one China-based security consultant. Possible reasons could include revenge, a practical joke or someone with a mental illness, he said.

A spokeswoman for the city police said yesterday she was unaware of the cases. Another police official in charge of security at the market also said he was unaware of these incidents, though recently police had stepped up efforts against a rash of pickpocket cases.

At least one foreign consulate had informed the police and was awaiting a response, diplomats said.

In one case, a young girl trying on shoes was jabbed in the back. In the other cases, unknown assailants bumped into their victims before stabbing them, diplomats said.

The cases echo a scare in the northern city of Tianjin early this year, when gangs armed with syringes of blood pricked people on busy streets. Rumours said the attackers were Aids victims angry at inadequate government care.

Some foreign consulates in Shanghai had warned their citizens to be careful while shopping at the market, but some said it would be safer to stay away.

'Just give it a miss for a while,' advised the security consultant.

'There are plenty of other shopping venues in Shanghai.'