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17-06-08, 14:05
Hong Kong warns of Olympic sabotage
Web posted at: 6/17/2008 2:17:11
Source ::: Agencies
hong kong/ URUMQI, China ? Security concerns over a possible terrorist attack during the Beijing Olympics spread to Hong Kong yesterday, with a top immigration official warning the city's hosting of Olympics equestrian events could be targeted.

"Intelligence reports suggest to us that there are some people who will come to sabotage Olympics events including equestrian events," said Simon Peh, Hong Kong's director of immigration, in an interview to a select group of local media.

"Of course this kind of intelligence will continually change ... right now the main individuals who might sabotage the event are terrorists," Peh added, without giving any specifics on where these terrorists might come from or their affiliation.

The head of Interpol, Ronald Noble, said in April there was a "real possibility" that the Beijing Olympics would be targeted by terrorists, but this was the first time that specific intelligence had suggested a possible security threat involving Hong Kong.

The former British colony will have a fringe Olympics role this August, hosting equestrian events on behalf of Beijing after the capital city failed to set up a disease-free zone for horses.

Noble of Interpol has said that foreign militants would find it very difficult to operate in China and Chinese authorities were more concerned about a terrorist threat coming from inside than from outside the country.

China has accused Uighur fighters in the far western, mainly Muslim region of Xinjiang of plotting attacks with Al Qaeda's support to help achieve their goal of establishing an independent country called East Turkistan.

The international leg of the Olympic torch relay has been dogged by pro-Tibet and anti-China protests, following unrest in Tibet last month in which China says about 20 people died.

Hong Kong too, saw protests during its May running of the torch with a handful of activists denied entry to the city and deported, and Peh said this might happen again in August.

Security has been an ever-present worry at the Olympic Games since 11 Israelis died in Munich in 1972 after Palestinian gunmen took them hostage and German authorities botched a rescue attempt.

Greece spent some $1.8bn to protect the Athens Games in 2004, the first to be held after Al Qaeda's 2001 attack on the United States.


Olympic terror expert

China has appointed a top terrorism expert to a leading public security post following a series of alleged plots against this summer's Beijing Olympics, an official notice said yesterday.

Yang Huanning, 51, has worked for years in central government bodies dedicated to battling opponents in the restive western regions of Xinjiang and Tibet, according to his resume posted on official websites.

Other past roles included managing China's international image, often clouded by charges of human rights abuses, and working with the United Nations Office of Peacekeeping on deployments of Chinese forces.

Word of Yang's appointment as a vice public security minister comes as the Olympic torch relay prepares to enter Xinjiang and Tibet, raising the specter of new security threats after overseas Tibetans and other critics of the communist regime sought repeatedly to disrupt the relay's overseas legs.

Meanwhile, China braced yesterday for a high-security Olympic torch relay leg through the restive western region of Xinjiang, where Beijing's rule is deeply unpopular among millions of Muslims.

The torch was to arrive in the regional capital Urumqi ahead of the relay through the city centre today before moving on to three other regional cities.

Officials announced a range of measures would be in place to safeguard the torch's passage through the city, including random checks of vehicles, and a ban on firecrackers and other hazardous materials.

"Our mission of safeguarding the unity of the motherland and ethnic minorities, and to combat terrorism, is extremely strenuous," Li Guangming, a top official with Xinjiang's sports bureau, was quoted by Urumqi's Morning Post newspaper as saying. The legs through Xinjiang and Tibetan-populated regions of China are the most sensitive of the three-month nationwide route.

Beijing says it faces a separatist Muslim terror threat in Xinjiang, a vast region of deserts and high mountains that is home to more than eight million Uighurs, a Central Asian people who have long chafed under Chinese control.

Uighurs widely dismiss the claim as an attempt by China to justify its strict control. Uighur exiles and residents said that Chinese authorities had confiscated the passports of many Muslims, one of several restrictive measures reported recently.

Some Muslims said the step was aimed at preventing them linking up abroad with "terrorist" plots aimed at the Olympics.

Authorities have also detained thousands, and ordered Muslim religious officials to undergo "political education" on "protecting" the Olympics, and to avoid contact with foreigners, especially journalists, said Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the Germany-based World Uighur Congress.

Foreign reporters were told they could select only one vantage point to view today's 12km run through Urumqi.

"It is because of the traffic controls due to the torch. We hope you can understand," said Long Jiasheng, a Chinese foreign ministry official based in Xinjiang.

Many Uighurs quietly denounce Chinese rule as oppressive against Muslims. They also allege systematic discrimination against Uighurs in employment, education and other spheres. A policy of encouraging immigration by Han Chinese, the nation's majority ethnic group, is also deeply unpopular, viewed as an attempt to marginalise Uighur culture.

Organisers of the Beijing Olympics recently announced a sudden change in the schedule of the relay through Xinjiang, moving it forward one week. Raxit said the sudden change was meant to prevent the leg being overshadowed by a "Freedom Torch Relay" to be held in Europe next week by the World Uighur Congress.


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