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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Eight dead after bombing in western China marks Olympic opening weekend

August 11, 2008

Jonathan Watts
Guardian (UK)
August 10, 2008

· Uighur separatists storm police station and lob explosives
· George Bush uses Beijing visit to promote religious freedom

A gun battle and attempted tricycle bombing claimed eight lives in
western China today in an apparent attempt by Islamic separatist
groups to steal global attention from the Beijing Olympics.

Police shot dead seven alleged militants, a security guard was killed
and two police cars destroyed in the pre-dawn attack in Kuqa, a city
in the Xinjiang region that borders Afghanistan, Pakistan and several
other central Asian states.

According to the state news agency, Xinhua, the bombers drove a
tricycle laden with explosives into the yard of a police station,
wounding two officers. They lobbed homemade explosives at the local
office of industry and commerce, officials said.

The clashes come less than a week after Xinjiang witnessed the
deadliest attack on Chinese security personnel in a decade. Last
Monday, two alleged Muslim jihadists in Kashgar droved a lorry at
high speed into a rank of jogging paramilarites, then killed the
survivors with bombs and knives, eventually claiming 16 lives.

The authorities linked the earlier attack to threats made by three
separatist groups who want to create an "East Turkistan" homeland for
ethnic Muslim Uighurs in the region.

On Thursday, a previously unknown group calling itself the Turkistan
Islamic party released a video threatening to attack buses, trains
and planes during Olympic fortnight.

Kuqa is more than 3,000 kilometres from Beijing, but Olympic
organisers have identified Uighur "terrorists" as the main threat to
the games. They sought to reassure athletes, journalists and tourists
that Sunday's attack would not disrupt the sports event.

"I do not believe this will have an impact on the Olympic games,"
said Wang Wei, the vice president of the games' organising committee.
He blamed the assaults on "East Turkistan terrorists".

Overseas Uighur grops claim the Chinese government is exaggerating
the threat posed by separatist extremists as an excuse to impose its
will on the Muslim population in Xinjiang.

"The goal of our organisation, and of the vast majority of Uighurs
around the world, is to peacefully resolve the problems facing
Uighurs in East Turkistan," said the US-based Uighur freedom movement
leader Rebiya Kadeer. "We advocate the principle of non-violence, and
the promotion of freedom, democracy and human rights through peaceful
means. We also sincerely hope for a peaceful Olympic games."

She accused the Chinese government of a heavy-handed crackdown in
Kashgar and throughout East Turkistan in the name of the Olympics,
saying Uighurs had experienced higher rates of execution and
detention, in addition to forced relocation, police monitoring,
passport confiscation, and the destruction of places of worship.

George Bush used his visit to Beijing for the opening ceremony to
raise the issue of religious freedom and improved human rights.
Before meeting the Chinese president, Hu Jintao, and watching swimmer
Michael Phelps win gold in the 400-metre individual medley. The US
president and his wife attended a church service in the Chinese
capital to underline his message.

"Laura and I just had the great joy and privilege of worshipping here
in Beijing, China," he said as parishioners exited to Onward
Christian Soldiers. "You know, it just goes to show that God is
universal, and God is love, and no state, man or woman should fear
the influence of loving religion."

But the authorities remain concerned about extremist groups. More
than 100,000 police and paramilitaries have been deployed in the host
city - along with 300,000 surveillance cameras - in one of the
biggest security operations ever mounted in China.

They were unable, however, to prevent the apparently random murder on
Saturday of the father-in-law of the US men's volleyball coach. Todd
Bachman was stabbed to death and his wife Barbara and a Chinese guide
were seriously wounded at Beijing's 13th-century Drum Tower. The
killer, 47-year-old Tang Yongming, leapt to his death after the attack.

His motive remains a mystery. Tang - who recently retired from a job
at a factory in the eastern city of Hangzhou, in Zhejiang province -
had arrived in Beijing on August 1. The 47-year-old, who divorced two
years ago, had no criminal record.

"His neighbors said they hadn't seen any abnormal behaviour from him
before left Hangzhou," said a spokesman for the Zhejiang public
security bureau.

Bush said he was saddened by the stabbing, but thanked his Chinese
counterpart for responding with speed and sympathy to the attack. "I
appreciate that a lot," Bush told Hu.
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