China’s western Xinjiang province is still simmering with violence and repression, as the government cracks down on Uighur rebels seeking to capitalize on the Beijing Olympics.
Critics, however, say that the threat has been exaggerated to justify harsher security measures.
Last week, a coordinated series of bombings targeted a dozen public buildings, leaving as many as eight dead, and prompting a complete lockdown of Kuqa City, home to 400,000 people.
Businesses have been shuttered there, and travel restricted.
The week before, two Muslim jihadists drove a truck into a group of security forces out jogging, killing 16 people and injuring 16 more, the China Post reported.
It was the deadliest attack against Chinese security personnel in a decade, and comes amid a spike in anti-government and Olympic-related violence and threats.
Authorities announced they had discovered a number of plans to kidnap athletes and bomb buses and an airplane — but critics say the threat is overblown, and a U.S.-based Uighur leader, Rebiya Kadeer, told The Guardian that China’s crackdown is “heavy handed.”
Xinjiang is home to 8.3 million ethnic Muslim Uighurs, and an Islamic separatist movement that seeks to establish the region as East Turkistan, reports the Times of India.
Separatism there has popular support: Two different Uighur republics briefly existed in the 1930s and 1940s, a time when China was weakened by civil war and the Japanese invasion.
“Eight dead after bombings in western China mars Olympic opening weekend”
The Guardian, August 10, 2008
“China insists Olympics are safe despite weekend violence”
Australian Broadcasting Corporation, August 11, 2008
“Police attacked in China’s Muslim northwest”
Sydney Morning Herald, August 10, 2008
“China says security tight despite numerous threats to Beijing Olympics”
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, July 28, 2008
“Dozens of attacks leave 8 dead in west China”
Times of India, August 11, 2008
“Renewed bomb attacks kill five in China”
Times of London, August 10, 2008
“Police kill 5 suspects after bombings in outlying Chinese province during Olympics”
China Post, August 10, 2008