Tuesday, June 17, 2008

'Forbidden city' of Olympics

Scotsman: Published Date: 18 June 2008
CHINA locked down the far-western Silk Road city of Kashgar yesterday in preparation for the passage of the Olympic torch relay through the sensitive region populated by ethnic- minority Muslim Uighurs.
Shops lining today's torch route were shuttered and police stood guard on every street corner. Soldiers and firefighters patrolled the main square of a city seen as the heart of Islam in China's oil-rich border region of Xinjiang.

"Nobody is allowed to watch the torch relay tomorrow unless you are being organised by your work unit. I feel a lot of regret," said Chen Guangsheng, a Han Chinese resident of Kashgar who said her home was along the route.

"The police are coming to my house tonight to inspect it and to register everybody living there."

Windows must be closed and residents were not allowed outside on their balconies during the relay, Ms Chen added.

The torch relay ahead of the Games opening in Beijing on 8 August was meant to be a symbol of national unity and pride for China, but it was dogged by anti-government protests on its international leg.

At home, the authorities are at pains to ensure a smooth journey, especially in troubled minority areas such as Xinjiang.

The Olympic flame will pass through the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, on Saturday, said a spokesman for the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG).

Lhasa was at the centre of anti-Chinese protests which broke out in March.

The exiled World Uyghur Congress said the authorities had forced people in Kashgar to sign letters guaranteeing they support the government and had thrown out at least 5,000 Uighurs ahead of the torch's arrival who were not legal residents.

"They're crazy, bringing it here," said a Uighur resident called Hamid, tapping his head. "It's their event, not ours," he added of the torch relay. "All we get is hassles."

One Uighur woman walking in the centre of Kashgar said that while she thought the Olympics were good, "I have no interest in the torch relay". She said that she felt uncomfortable giving her name.

The torch was paraded through Xinjiang's regional capital, Urumqi, yesterday, apparently without incident.

Unarmed militia were deployed overnight along the torch route.

"We're here to provide security," one militia member stationed with four others at an underpass said in halting speech. "We will be here all night." He refused to give his name, saying only "that's not good" when asked why.

State television said torchbearers were Han and Uighur peoples and from several other minority groups in the region, as the government sought to illustrate ethnic harmony.

In Kashgar's backstreets, there was no sign of the Olympics propaganda or flags that lined the city's main thoroughfares. While banners welcomed the torch in English and Chinese, there was little use of the Uighur language.

In a sign of the sensitivity of the torch relay here, foreign journalists were confined to one hotel and told they could not conduct interviews along the torch route.

A government official denied the restrictions were due to fear of "sudden incidents", China's euphemism for protests.

"We expect so many people to come, we thought it would be easier this way," said the official.


THE desert region of Xinjiang, which adjoins Tibet, is home to eight million ethnic Uighurs, a Central Asian people who speak a Turkic language and whom China blames for a series of attacks in the name of agitating for an independent state of East Turkestan.

Many Uighurs resent the migration of Han Chinese to the region and government controls on their culture and religion.

Like Tibet, Xinjiang is a region with a culture and language distinct from that of the Han. Radicals among its main Turkic-speaking Uighur ethnic group have, for decades, been waging a low-intensity struggle against Chinese rule.

An unknown number of people have been sentenced to death or to long prison terms on separatism or subversion charges.

The government claims to have cracked at least two Xinjiang-based terror plots this year, one involving an attempt to bring down an airliner flying to Beijing and the other to kidnap foreigners and carry out suicide attacks at the Olympics.
OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

1 comment:

gwadzilla said...

perhaps this is the chance for the world to put China under the microscope and start the discussion

human rights and environmental impact

time to bring the world up to speed
time to make countries accountable