View Full Version : Chinese city pauses for policemen slain in attack

08-08-08, 19:55
Chinese city pauses for policemen slain in attack
AFP - August 7, 2008, 6:52 pm

The remote Chinese city of Kashgar came to a standstill on Thursday as a government-organised ceremony was held to remember 16 policemen killed in an alleged terrorist attack.

About 2,000 people from the Uighur ethnic minority lined a bridge in the Central Asian border town, with several participants telling AFP they had been ordered to take part in the ceremony, which was tightly controlled by police.

Authorities in the northwestern Xinjiang region blamed Islamic Uighur militants for Monday's attack on the policemen, saying it was part of a plot to wreck the Beijing Olympics.

"All of the people of Kashgar will remember you forever," said a banner held by a line of soldiers on the bridge.

The procession was held amid a security clampdown in Xinjiang's capital Urumqi and throughout the region to prevent any more trouble ahead of Friday's Olympic opening ceremony, thousands of kilometres (miles) away in Beijing.

"To ensure security during the ceremony, the Urumqi police will guard against and severely strike any destructive or illegal activities," the government-run Xinjiang Daily News said.

"All our strength will be channelled toward increasing the frequency and intensity of public security patrols."

Several major markets in the city had already shut down until Sunday to "welcome the Beijing Olympics," said the state-controlled Xinjiang news website Tianshan.net.

The crowds at the procession in Kashgar were mainly elderly Uighur men in traditional four-pointed skullcaps and women in colourful headscarves, although there were also dozens of white-shirted government employees.

"We were ordered to come here by the authorities," said one 18-year-old Uighur man, asking to remain anonymous. Asked if he wanted to be there, he said: "I guess it is okay, but I could not really say no."

Police stopped several people from talking to an AFP reporter, while those who did speak expressed similar sentiments to the reluctant teenager.

The bridge where the Uighurs were arranged was near the local headquarters of China's ruling Communist Party. Uighurs in other parts of the city told of similar gatherings as the ceremony ground the city to a halt.

Police sealed off the town's main road as more than a dozen military and police vehicles drove past, escorting four buses full of weeping civilians who appeared to be relatives of the dead police officers.

According to the official explanation, two Uighur separatists attacked a group of around 70 policemen with explosives and machetes, killing 16 officers and wounding another 16.

The government said the explosives used in the attack were similar to those found in a raid on the separatist East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), a UN-listed terrorist group, during a raid on the group in Xinjiang last year.

Two short-lived East Turkestan republics emerged in Xinjiang in the 1930s and 1940s, when Chinese central government control was weakened by civil war and Japanese invasion.

Xinjiang now 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 Chinese rule.