Pressemeldungen - Nachrichten
China warnings could be aimed at dissent: rights groups
AFP Tuesday, March 11, 2008 By Peter Harmsen
BEIJING - China's warnings of a series of sinister Tibetan
and Muslim threats could be part of a campaign to silence all
manner of dissent ahead of the Olympics, rights groups and
In recent days, authorities said they foiled a planned attack
by "terrorists" in China's Muslim-populated Xinjiang on the
August Olympics in Beijing, as well as an attempt to hijack and
crash a plane from the region.
They also said "forceful and resolute" measures had been
taken to quell "separatist" forces in the Buddhist region of
Tibet, reasserting that exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama
was a prime culprit in the movement.
Phelim Kine, Asia researcher with New York-based Human Rights
Watch, said the warnings were a sign of China's jitters ahead of
the Games about all sources of dissent, not just from Tibetans
or the Uighurs in Xinjiang.
"We're concerned that the Chinese government may use these
alleged terrorist plots as a pretext for a new campaign of
repression against the Uighur population in Xinjiang and to
stifle any public expressions of dissent in Xinjiang ahead of
the 2008 Olympic Games," Kine said.
"It's fair to say the Chinese government is extremely
concerned about potentially embarrassing protests or expressions
of dissent from any number of marginalised groups in society,"
"(This is the case) whether they are Xinjiang Uighurs,
whether they are Tibetans, whether they are Mongolians or
representatives of underground Christian churches."
Indeed, a wide range of groups aside from those in Xinjiang
and Tibet have already sought to use the Olympics as a platform
to highlight their causes and pressure the Chinese authorities,
while promising protests during the Games.
Among the most prominent voices of dissent have been
international organisations pushing China to use its influence
with the government in Sudan to end the violence in its Darfur
Chinese dissidents have also boldly spoken out against what
they say are widespread human rights abuses inside China, amid
what they call a worsening crackdown by the country's communist
rulers to silence them ahead of the Games.
Sun Wenguang, a well-known dissident academic from the east
Chinese city of Jinan, said he was sceptical about the
government's latest claims of a rising terrorist threat in
Xinjiang or elsewhere.
"Now, the number of people who actively use violence is
limited," said Sun.
"The authorities engineer public opinion in this way to make
dissidents look bad."
A western observer, who spoke on condition of anonymity,
citing the need to be able to travel to China, also said the
government was using the alleged terrorist threat to justify a
"It's a crackdown intended to minimise the threat of an event
during the Olympics that would gain international attention and
reflect poorly on the (Communist) Party," he said.
James Millward of Georgetown University in the United States,
who recently published a history of Xinjiang, where the
Turkic-speaking Uighurs are the majority, said the latest claims
by the government were slightly puzzling.
"The Xinjiang authorities are clearly engaged in making a
public show of vigilance, of highlighting the danger over the
last months or so," he said.
"We need to ask ourselves if this is an orchestrated
publicity campaign, who is it being aimed at... is it meant to
deter possible incidents? I don't know."
In regards to Tibet, one prominent critic said the Communist
leadership had stepped up a campaign to vilify the Dalai Lama
and other critics of Chinese rule ahead of the Games.
"There is no doubt at all that the Chinese government wishes
part of its Olympic propaganda to present a misleading picture
that Chinese rule in Tibet is accepted by the Tibetans," said
Matt Whitticase, London-based spokesman for the Free Tibet
"This is why they are cracking down very, very heavily indeed
on any sign of Tibetan opposition to Chinese rule."