In late June, a fight erupted between a group of Han Chinese and Uighur workers from Xinjiang at a factory in Shaoguan, Guangdong province, after a rumour spread that some Uighurs had raped two women.
Nearly all Uighurs to whom Reuters spoke in Xinjiang's regional capital Urumqi, where almost 200 people died in riots in July, traced those protests back to their own anger over the Shaoguan confrontation, word of which spread online.
Now police in Guangdong's provincial capital Guangzhou have detained three people who posted comments online that several Uighurs had been beaten up by residents and security guards after being accused of theft.
One of the detained invented and transmitted on the Internet false news about the supposed beatings, the official Xinhua news agency said on its website (www.xinhuanet.com).
Another two people then followed up, posting and spreading this false news, which had an effect, the report added without elaborating.
Uighurs are a Turkic-speaking Muslim people who call Xinjiang home. Many chafe at Chinese controls on their religious and cultural traditions, which rights groups say is the cause of much of the discontent.
Energy-rich Xinjiang, strategically located in central Asia, has been struck in recent years by bombings, attacks and riots blamed by Beijing on Uighur separatists demanding an independent East Turkistan.
Xinhua said that Xinjiang would from Feb. 1 put into effect revised rules on public security to help address loopholes in current laws it said contributed to the July violence.
The rules would be aimed at maintaining national and ethnic unity and social stability. Xinhua gave no details.Over the weekend, Xinjiang's top leader was quoted as saying that the government would have to wage a long-term struggle to contain separatist forces and maintain stability there.
(Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie)