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China Orders Highest Alert for Olympics

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EDWARD WONG AND KEITH BRADSHER
New York Times
Monday, August 4, 2008

BEIJING — Chinese officials have thrown an almost smothering blanket of security across this capital of 17 million in preparation for the start of the Olympic Games on Friday. Above all else, Chinese leaders say, these Olympics will be “safe.”

They warn that terrorism is a constant threat, particularly from Muslim separatist groups in the Xinjiang region of western China. On Monday morning, Xinhua, the state news agency, reported what appeared to be the deadliest attack against Chinese security forces in recent memory: 16 policemen were killed and 16 others injured when attackers threw two grenades into a police station in the desert oasis town of Kashgar, in the far west, after driving a truck into the station at 8 a.m. Two men were arrested.

Even before that raid, Chinese officials had transformed Beijing into a giant fortress. Surface-to-air missiles take aim at the sky above the Olympic stadiums here. Surveillance cameras mounted on light poles scan sidewalks. Police officers search thousands of cars and trucks entering the city.

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Even civilians have been called on to strengthen the motherland: Tens of thousands of middle-age and elderly residents wearing red armbands, reminiscent of the zealous Red Guard youth from decades ago, now patrol neighborhoods looking for even a slightly suspicious act or person.

But human rights advocates accuse the Chinese government of using the pretext of terrorism to silence dissent and clamp down on ethnic minority groups that chafe at rule by ethnic Han Chinese, who dominate the Communist Party leadership. Some security experts say many of the surveillance measures will probably stay in place after the Games, to bolster the reach of the authorities.

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This article was posted: Monday, August 4, 2008 at 12:19 pm





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