A false report of knife hackings had crowds running in Guangzhou yesterday, a day after a knife fight between food vendors in another city left six dead.
The jitteriness came a day after the knife fight between two food stall owners in Changsha, the capital of neighbouring Hunan province, left five people hacked to death and one person shot dead by police.
Security concerns were already high after a knife attack two weeks ago in which 29 people were killed and 140 others wounded at Kunming train station in an incident blamed on ethnic Uygur separatists.
Friday's violence appeared to stem from a personal dispute, but it may reinforce public prejudice against Uygurs as the food vendors are believed to be from the ethnic minority.
Police did not identify them as such, but a witness said the stand operators were Uygurs selling flatbread. Online news reports posted early on Friday that said they were Uygurs were later removed.
The crowd reaction in Guangzhou was the second such incident. On Friday, hours after Changsha's violence, dozens of shoppers at a busy mall in Chengdu, Sichuan province, fled in a panic because of false rumours 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 strengthened security in areas with heavy traffic, such as malls, transport hubs and popular tourist sites.