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Violence taints the Beijing Games

August 11, 2008

Saturday's attack on American tourists, and continued unrest in
Xinjiang, have tested the trouble-free Olympics Chinese officials sought.
Peter Ford, Staff writer
Christian Science Monitor (USA)
August 10, 2008

Beijing -- In one of the safest capitals in the world, currently
under surveillance by one of the tightest security operations ever
launched here, Tang Yongming still managed to murder an American
tourist on Saturday.

Mr. Tang was not a terrorist, neither did he have a criminal record,
according to Chinese and international officials, so nobody was
watching him. Armed only with a knife he offered an embarrassing
reminder to the Chinese authorities – bent on ensuring a flawless
Olympics – that they cannot control everything.

"This incident proves that there is no watertight security anywhere,"
says Chen Yali, a security expert at the China Research Group, a
think tank here. "Surprises happen."

"This was an isolated criminal case and no city in the world today is
immune from such acts," adds Sun Weide, a spokesman for the Games'
organizing committee. "Police will now take extra security measures
at tourist sites."

Fatal attacks over the weekend

Tang, who came to Beijing a week ago according to police, attacked
Todd and Barbara Bachman, parents-in-law of the US men's Olympic
volleyball team coach, as they visited a popular tourist spot in
central Beijing. Mr. Bachman died of his wounds, and his widow is in
critical condition after what the US embassy called a "senseless act
of violence."

Embassy spokeswoman Susan Stevenson said, "We don't believe this has
anything to do with the Olympics," but for the Beijing authorities
and for their enemies, everything that happens in China at the moment
is Olympics-related.

In Kuqa, a town in the restless far western province of Xinjiang,
five men died in attacks on government offices before dawn on Sunday,
state media reported.

This was the second attack by presumed separatist forces using
explosives in a week. Sixteen Chinese policemen were killed last week
in Kashgar, after a shadowy organization calling itself the Turkestan
Islamic Party issued a video threatening to attack Olympic venues in
protest against what many members of Xinjiang's Uighur people feel is
repression of their culture and Muslim religion.

Chinese security officials have said repeatedly that they believe
Uighur separatists pose the greatest threat to the Olympic Games, but
most independent analysts doubt that they have the capability to
strike in Beijing itself.

Snuffing out protests

So far, the police have had little difficulty dealing with the sort
of political threats that officials had feared might get out of hand,
such as illegal demonstrations.

The most active foreign group, "Students for a Free Tibet," has
pulled off nearly daily stunts. On Sunday, five protesters unveiled a
banner outside Beijing's iconic Tiananmen Square before police
detained them. In recent days, climbers hung a banner demanding
Tibetan independence from a 120-foot-high lamp post, three activists
unfurled a Tibetan flag for a few seconds outside the National
Stadium before the opening ceremony, and five more staged a "die-in"
on Tiananmen Square on Saturday, wrapped in Tibetan flags.

All those involved were quickly bundled away, held for a few hours
and then deported. "The police are trying hard to use civilized ways
to stop protests being seen by the outside world," says Ms. Chen. One
morning last week, for example, policemen opened umbrellas to shield
three protesting Christians on Tiananmen Square from press photographers.

Though foreign media have reported on such protests, the local
Chinese-language media have ignored them completely. The
demonstrations so far "matter very little," says Drew Thompson, head
of China studies at the Nixon Center in Washington. "They are being
carried out by foreigners and Chinese people are not associating with them."

Chinese citizens are not being allowed to demonstrate against the
government either, even if they follow special rules announced for
the Olympic period that were supposed to regulate protests.

Three parks have been assigned for approved protests, Liu Shaowu,
head of security for the Games' organizing committee told reporters
two weeks ago. Spokesmen for two of those parks said Sunday they had
been given no further information, nor any indication that any
protests have been approved. Nobody answered the telephone at the third park.

Three Chinese groups are known to have applied for permits to protest
in one of the official zones; one applicant, Zhang Wei, who lost her
home when the Beijing government redeveloped her neighborhood, was
taken from her house by policemen early last Wednesday, family
members said, and has not been seen since.

Another applicant was warned by police to return to his home
province, several hundred miles from Beijing. Leaders of the third
group were sent back to Suzhou, a few hours away by train, escorted by police.
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