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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Tibet unrest spreads to Muslim separatists in China

April 3, 2008

Chinese Muslim Uighurs leave a mosque in the town of Kashgar, Xinjiang

(Mark Ralston/AFP/Getty Images)

Times Online
April 2, 2008

Muslim Uighurs in Xinjiang Province have been accused by the Chinese
government of posing a terrorist threat to the Olympics
Jane Macartney, Beijing

Unrest in Tibet has spilled over with an eruption of anger among Muslim
separatists in China’s vast westernmost region of Xinjiang.

As many as 1,000 people staged a demonstration in a marketplace in the
southern Silk Road city of Khotan on March 23, the local government
confirmed. It gave no reason as to why no report of the unrest had been
made public for so many days, but it is not unusual for Chinese
authorities to keep any such disruptions quiet.

Muslim extremists trying to start a rebellion were to blame, the Khotan
government said. “A small number of elements ? tried to incite
splittism, create disturbances in the market place and even trick the
masses into an uprising.”

The latest sign of spreading pro-independence unrest among China’s
ethnic minorities comes just weeks after the Government said it was
facing a serious threat to the Olympics from terrorists among the Muslim
Uighurs in Xinjiang.

Radio Free Asia, funded by the US Government, said several hundred
Uighurs had staged a demonstration in the ancient oasis town to protest
against limits on the wearing of headscarves by local women and
demanding an end to the torture of Uighurs and the release of political

Fu Chao, an official with the Hotan Regional Administrative Office, said
the protest involved people who wanted to establish an Islamic nation
and to separate Xinjiang from China and not because of a head scarf ban.
He said the government discouraged Uighur women from wearing scarves
while they work because it is inconvenient, but that the practice was
otherwise accepted.

The demonstration had apparently been incited by the unrest in Tibet,
where anti-Chinese rioters rampaged through the capital, Lhasa, on March
14 leaving 18 people dead and setting fire to hundreds of shops and offices.

The Khotan government said the people involved adhered to the "three
evil forces", a Chinese expression that refers to separatism, religious
extremism and terrorism. "Our police immediately intervened to prevent
this and are dealing with it in accordance with the law."

Another local official said police took several dozen protesters into
custody. Some had been released after being “educated”. Others “core
splittists” were still in custody, he said.

Last month, officials said a woman had confessed to attempting to hijack
and crash a Chinese passenger plane from Xinjiang in what officials said
was part of a terror campaign by a radical Islamic independence group,
the East Turkestan Islamic Movement. The reports said the woman was from
China's Turkic Muslim Uighur minority.

As the latest report of unrest emerged, officials announced that a
Beijing concert by Canadian pop superstar Celine Dion scheduled for
April 13 had been cancelled because organisers had failed to obtain the
proper permit despite the sale of thousands of tickets. She would still
perform in Shanghai on April 11.

The cancellation appeared to be linked to the concert organiser, Emma
Ticketmaster, which was involved in a controversy last month after
Icelandic singer Bjork played her song, "Declare Independence," and
chanted "Tibet! Tibet!" during a concert the company promoted in Shanghai.

China's Culture Ministry said it would tighten controls over foreign
performers after the Bjork incident, but ministry officials later said
that it was an isolated case and would not affect foreign artists coming
to perform.
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