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AFP News
03-05-08, 13:36
Chinese Uighur exile urges Olympic boycott over 'genocide'

14 hours ago

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TOKYO (AFP) — A senior exiled leader of China's Muslim Uighur minority has urged a boycott of the Olympics, accusing Beijing of "cultural genocide" alongside its crackdown in Tibet.

"China has no right to host the Olympic Games because they represent peace, freedom and friendship," said Dolkun Isa, secretary general of the Munich-based World Uighur Congress.

Isa told AFP that China had failed to improve human rights in Tibet and China's western Xinjiang region, where Beijing is accused by rights groups of cracking down on local ethnic groups.

Uighurs, whose Turkish roots make them culturally and ethnically closer to Central Asian nations than Han Chinese, are concentrated in Xinjiang.

Uighur activists have been seeking independence or autonomy for the region, which they call East Turkestan.

Isa held talks in Japan with senior lawmakers, including former prime minister Shinzo Abe and former foreign minister Taro Aso, to seek pressure on China over its human rights record when President Hu Jintao visits next week.

"Japan has a responsibility to save the Uighur culture and people from China's cultural genocide," Isa said during his visit to Tokyo.

He said Japan should ask Hu for the release of prisoners including the two children of leading Uighur dissident Rebiya Kadeer, who lives in exile in the United States and is president of the World Uighur Congress.

Beijing has labelled Uighur activists as terrorists and said this year that it had foiled a planned attack by Uighurs on a Chinese plane as well as plans to kidnap foreigners during the Olympics.

But rights groups have alleged that China is trying to stoke fears about attacks as an excuse to silence dissent and justify tight control in Xinjiang ahead of the Games.

Isa said a "peaceful demonstration" on March 23 by Uighur women calling for religious freedom resulted in 700 arrests.

He added that more than 10,000 Uighurs have been arrested in the past four to five months on allegations that they pose a security threat. "They were told they'd be kept under arrest until after the Olympics," he said.

"Everywhere, homes, hotels are searched. People are arrested. Checkpoints are set up, and every passenger, every bus is checked. Even people with no past records have been arrested simply because they look suspicious," he added.

"Police are everywhere. If three, four Uighurs gather to talk in a street, police immediately arrive and force them to disperse."

The worldwide relay of Beijing's Olympic flame has been marred by protests, mostly calling for greater liberties in Tibet after Beijing's crackdown on major protests in March.

Bowing to international pressure, Beijing last month said it was willing to resume talks with the Dalai Lama's representatives, who are heading to the meeting this weekend.

But Isa was sceptical.

"It's not credible," he said. "This time it's because there was an international reaction and China has only three months left until the Olympics to improve its image after Tibet."

He expects Uighurs to demonstrate when the Olympic flame arrives in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, in June.

"Most Chinese demonstrators are pressured to support (the flame and the Games). Many are suffering under the Chinese communist regime. Chinese have never forgotten the Tiananmen" massacre of 1989, Isa said.

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