(AFP) – Aug 8, 2008
KASHGAR, China (AFP) — Chinese authorities Friday announced stepped up controls on religious figures and potential "trouble-makers" in the Muslim city of Kashgar as the Olympic Games opened in Beijing.
The order by the Kashgar government followed an attack that killed 16 police officers and a new threat by ethnic Uighur separatists from China's far northwest Xinjiang region to attack the Games.
"To ensure stability, (authorities) have strengthened controls on non-residents to root out trouble, and stepped up controls on key people, religious figures and trouble-making petitioners to stay abreast of things," said an announcement on the city government's website.
It gave no further details and did not specify what "key people" meant. China has already launched a nationwide effort to halt people petitioning the government over various grievances during the Games.
The government said the latest measures were taken in the wake of Monday's attack to "prevent and strike down any trouble" and ensure Olympic security.
However, there was only a mild increase in the police presence in Kashgar for the opening ceremony of the Beijing Games, mostly concentrated in the main public spaces, the People's Square and the plaza in front of the Id Kah mosque.
Police officers with white helmets checked the bags of people walking through the two sites where several hundred spectators had stopped to view the ceremony on giant screens.
"It's beautiful. Spectacular," said Yusufu, a 27-year-old Uighur teacher, who said he believed most Uighurs supported a successful Games.
"Everybody in China should support the Beijing Olympics."
Kashgar's population of about 400,000 is around 90 percent Uighur -- an Islamic, central Asian people -- many of whom resent what they say has been decades of Chinese political and religious persecution.
However, the event failed to bring the city to a standstill as it did in Beijing, with Uighurs filling Kashgar's bustling, 2,000-year-old alleys as usual rather than watch China's biggest televised spectacle in years.
Several shrugged off the ceremony, reflecting a view widespread among many Uighurs that the Games had little relevance for them.
"I don't care about that. I am too busy and don't have time to sit and watch what happens in Beijing," a 22-year-old baker told AFP as he pulled steaming hot bagels from a streetside brick oven.
Earlier, Uighur men had streamed by the hundreds into the Id Kah mosque, one of China's largest, for Friday prayers.
"There are no police controls that we know of. Everything is normal," a mosque staffer told AFP.
China has blamed Monday's attack, in which two men struck a group of police officers with a truck and assaulted them with explosives and knives, on Islamic separatists.
Adding to the tensions in Xinjiang, a Uighur separatist group on Thursday issued a new video threatening attacks on planes and ground transport at the Beijing Olympics, a Washington-based intelligence monitoring group said.
IntelCenter said the threat was issued by the Turkestan Islamic Party, a Muslim group seeking an independent "East Turkestan" for Uighurs in Xinjiang.
Xinjiang authorities had previously announced stepped up security in Urumqi, the regional capital, and elsewhere after Monday's attack.
Two short-lived East Turkestan republics emerged in Xinjiang in the 1930s and 1940s, when Chinese control was weakened by civil war and the Japanese invasion.
Xinjiang now has about 8.3 million Uighurs.
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