East Turkestan: China's Muslim West Tense Ahead of Olympic Opening
Below is an article published by AFP :
China's heavily Muslim west was tense on Thursday [7 August 2008] ahead of the Beijing Olympics Games opening ceremony as the authorities vowed to crush any attempt to cause disruption.
The move appeared part of a broad clampdown in the Xinjiang region after an attack Monday [4 August 2008] in the city of Kashgar killed 16 police officers, which officials blamed on Muslim ethnic Uighur [activists].
Authorities in the regional capital Urumqi were set to launch "intense" patrols in the city in preparation for Friday's [8 August 2008] much-anticipated opening ceremony in Beijing, the Xinjiang Daily News said.
"To ensure security during the ceremony, the Urumqi police will guard against and severely strike any destructive or illegal activities," the government-run mouthpiece said.
"All our strength will be channelled toward increasing the frequency and intensity of public security patrols," it said.
Several major markets in the city have already been shut down through Sunday [10 August 2008] to "welcome the Beijing Olympics," said the state-controlled Xinjiang news website Tianshan.net.
In Kashgar, scene of Monday's [4 August 2008] attack, authorities were tight-lipped on security plans for Friday [8 August 2008].
However, rumours swirled throughout the tense city -- an ancient Silk Road oasis -- that authorities planned to ban cars from the road, close many businesses and order residents to stay indoors to watch Friday's [8 August 2008] night ceremony on television.
"We do not know what the plans are for tomorrow [9 August 2008]. We have not received the notices yet," said a press official with the Kashgar city government.
Xinjiang, a vast area bordering Central Asia, has about 8.3 million ethnic Uighurs, a Turkic-speaking people, many of whom express anger at what they say has been decades of repressive communist Chinese rule.
The city came to a standstill Thursday as the government shut down traffic to remember those killed [in the 4 August 2008 attacks], with many Uighurs telling AFP they were ordered to take part in the hour-long observance.