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Beijing gets ground-to-air defense for Olympics

June 26, 2008

Missiles just 300 yards from Olympic Sports Center Stadium
The Associated Press
June 24, 2008

BEIJING - China has stationed a battery of ground-to-air missiles
just 300 yards from a Beijing Olympic venue, the latest sign of
tightening security with the games just 6½  weeks away.

The fenced-off military compound has been set up just south of the
Olympic Sports Center Stadium, a venue for soccer and modern
pentathlon. It's also within a half mile of the Water Cube and the
Bird's Nest National Stadium, the $450 million showpiece venue of the games.

At least two Hongqi 7 missile launchers were visible behind a 7-foot
fence, with military hardware and vehicles hidden under camouflage
netting. Dozen of soldiers guarded the compound on Tuesday with a
notice posted on the fence: "Military Administrative District No Admittance."

The Beijing Olympics are intended to showcase the country's rising
political and economic power. But the intense media scrutiny is also
giving environmentalists and political activists with grievances a
potential stage for protest, which could lead to a public-relations
disaster for the image-conscious communist government.

The Athens Olympics four years ago were also under tight security
with Patriot anti-aircraft missiles stationed around the city. Those
games came just three years after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on
the United States.

China has beefed up security efforts since deadly rioting in Tibet
broke out on March 14, followed by pro-Tibet protests on
international legs of the torch relay.

On at least three occasions this year, authorities say they foiled
plots by separatists from Xinjiang -- the far western,
Muslim-dominated region of China -- that targeted the Olympics. The
plots included alleged attempts to crash an airliner and kidnap
athletes and journalists.

Little evidence has been provided, however, and many foreign security
experts question the scale of the threat while rights groups say
Beijing may be using terrorism as cover for crackdowns on legitimate
peaceful dissent.

Last week Beijing said it had mobilized a 100,000-strong
anti-terrorism force to guard against Olympic threats. Police
commandos, specialist units and regular army troops made up the
force. It also included the paramilitary Snow Wolf Commando Unit,
which will handle terrorist alerts and public unrest during the Aug.
8-24 games.

China has toughened visa rules ahead of the games, targeting students
and business officials who travel frequently to the country. This has
been coupled with frequent sweeps of areas where foreigners live,
with police checking documents and residence permits.

With less then two months before the start of the games, TV
broadcasters remain embroiled in a fight with Chinese organizers over
coverage away from the sports venues. They say they may be hindered
from moving freely around the city and reporting the games, a promise
Beijing made when it was awarded the games seven years ago.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
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