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16 April 2024

China city says it's safe for tourists after attack

By Agencies

The Chinese city of Xi'an is bolstering steps to protect tourists visiting the Terracotta Warriors and other famed sites, the city mayor said after an attack on 10 Australians and their translator.


A local man claiming to be armed with explosives attacked the group of Australian travel agents visiting the northwest Chinese city on Wednesday before he was shot dead by a police sniper.


Nine of the hostages were quickly released by the man, Xia Tao. But a 48-year-old woman and the group's local translator were held captive for several hours before the gunman was killed while he tried to reach the city airport.


The incident draw embarrassing international attention and a storm of media interest in Australia just as China is polishing itself for an influx of foreign visitors for the Beijing Olympic Games starting on August 8.


But Mayor Chen Baogen said the attack was an isolated case and his city was safe, according to the official China Daily on Saturday.


"Xi'an is safe for tourists from home and abroad," Chen told the paper. "We'll definitely take more measures and improve our emergency plans to ensure the safety of every tourist."


He did not specify what those measures were.


China is generally safe for foreign tourists. Attacks are rare and pick-pockets and petty theft are the main worries. Officials have been quick to say the attack was an isolated exception.


Xi'an, which also boasts an ancient city wall and neighbourhoods and impressive museums and mosques, attracted 31 million visitors in 2007, including a million from overseas, the paper said, citing city tourist bureau numbers.


Chen said he expected visitor numbers to grow by at least 10 per cent this year compared to 2007.


"The hijacker's motive remains unclear," the paper said. (Reuters)