Five people were hacked to death yesterday following a dispute between two Uygur vendors in Changsha, capital of Hunan province, state media reported.
One of the vendors was among those killed. The other vendor, the suspected assailant, fled the scene but was later shot dead by police, Xinhua reported.
The incident comes amid heightened ethnic tensions after knife-wielding assailants suspected of being Uygur separatists from Xinjiang stabbed 29 people to death at Kunming's main railway station on March 1.
Citing Changsha authorities, Xinhua said a knife fight erupted between two vendors, Hebir Turdi and Memet Abla, at about 10.15am at the Shahuqiao Market in Wujialing, in the north of the city. Abla was hacked to death by Turdi, who stabbed four passers-by as he fled the scene. Two victims died at the scene, and the other two in hospital.
The Shanghai-based Oriental Morning Post, citing a hardware-shop owner at the market, reported that the suspect continued to hack Abla "dozens of times" after the latter fell to the ground. "He was crazy, and hacked whoever he saw [afterwards]," the shop owner said.
Uploaded photos of the crime scene showed several bodies lying in the street.
Earlier reports by other local media mentioned three suspects, including one who was still at large. Xinhua mentioned only Turdi in its report.
A Wujialing resident said she had never heard of ethnic conflict in Changsha before. "You sometimes hear rumours about thefts by Uygurs but not anything this bad," she said. "Of course it's scary. If I can, I will stay home."
Hours after the Changsha incident, a rumour of a "knife attack" saw hundreds flee from a mall in Chengdu, Sichuan . Police sent SWAT teams but it was a false alarm.
Meanwhile, Yu Zhengsheng, the Communist Party's top leader on Xinjiang affairs, was said by another senior political adviser yesterday in The Beijing News to have criticised local officials for discriminating against Uygurs after the Kunming attack. Yu said at a meeting on Tuesday that such a practice was "foolish", hurt ethnic ties and was against Beijing's policy, according to the adviser.