China warns of Uighur terror at Olympics
As the Olympic Games draw ever closer, China is warning of trouble while the Muslim protest movement denies violence is imminent.
Beijing - China believes the greatest threat of a terrorist attack at the Beijing Olympics comes from Uighur separatists even though exile Uighur groups have not called for any disturbances during the Games.
In fact, many fear that the Chinese authorities are using the security requirements necessary for hosting the Olympics to oppress the 8 million Muslim Uighurs who live in Xinjiang province in north- western China.
"International Uighur groups have in no way called for disturbances during the Games," said Dru Gladney, an American authority on the Uighur people.
"It would be quite counter-productive for the Uighurs to hinder the Games."
Gladney called China's public utterances about the dangers of a terrorist attack by Uighurs as "not credible," saying the Olympics was not the platform that they wished to use to highlight their plight.
Earlier this month, Chinese police claimed to have arrested 82 suspected terrorists in Xinjiang for "allegedly plotting sabotage against the Beijing Olympics" while authorities said in March that separatists had attempted to blow up an airliner.
A shrouded person claiming to be a commander of the Turkestan Islamic Party called for attacks in China during the Olympics Games as well as claiming responsibility for the July 21 bus attacks in Yunnan province and a May 5 attack in Shanghai.
However, even China's security forces expressed doubt that Uighurs were involved in the incidents.
International security experts have linked the Turkestan Islamic Party with the East Turkestan Independence Movement (ETIM), both of which are considered terrorist groups by China and the United States.
Gladney however pointed out that the ETIM has not been in operation for years.
"We have heard nothing of this organization for years," he said. "If it even was a movement, then to the best of our knowledge it does not have very many members."
Instead, Gladney believes China is attempting to blacken the name of all Uighur independence groups.
Xinjiang province, formerly East Turkestan, was annexed as an autonomous region after the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.
Exile Uighurs have called for the re-establishment of the East Turkestani republic.
(DPA - expatica 2008)