A ruthless regime of flag wavers
Authorities in China's troubled far-western region of Xinjiang are telling people who want to watch the Olympic torch as it passes through the area to stay at home and tune into the television instead. Spectators, who in other parts of China have thronged streets to get a glimpse of the torch, were also banned from climbing trees or collecting on bridges under which the flame will pass, state media said on Monday.
The steps are a measure of the sensitivity which surrounds Xinjiang, an oil-rich border region which is home to the Muslim Uighur people, some of whom Beijing blames for a series of attacks in the name of agitating for an independent state. Xinjiang is home to 8 million Uighurs, many of whom resent the growing presence and economic grip of the Han Chinese. The government insists only a tiny minority support the separatists.
"Considering that too many people will cause a lack of safety, we are recommending that everyone watches on the television from home," the official Xinjiang Daily quoted the Communist Party boss of the region's sports administration, Li Guangming, as saying. "The government expects tens of thousands of people will shout encouragement on the streets who have come in groups with their work units," Li said.
Other newspapers warned that "uncivilized behavior" would be "appropriately dealt with." "Do not shout slogans that damage the image of the nation or of the city," the Urumqi Evening News said, outlining a long list of behavior that was similarly banned, including not taking pets along to look at the spectacle or setting off fireworks.
Foreign reporters covering the event have likewise been warned to behave in the event of a protest along or near the route, euphemistically referred to as a "sudden incident." "If foreign reporters cover a sudden incident, they will be subject to site safety management instructions and ... should follow the advice of security personnel on the spot," a handbook reads, without elaborating.
Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the exiled World Uyghur Congress, said China was using the Olympics as an excuse to further crack down on his people. "Uighurs are still living in a culture of fear, facing persecution, marginalization and assimilation that erode the very core of cultural identity, religious belief and economic rights of Uighurs," he said in an emailed statement.
More at: World Uyghur Congress
Exile groups say thousands of Uighurs have been rounded up in the run-up to the Olympics. "(The crackdown) is intended to prevent Uighurs from telling foreign reporters and visitors the truth of their suffering," Rebiya Kadeer, head of the Uighur American Association, told AFP last month.
Beijing Olympic organisers recently said the sensitive Xinjiang torch leg would take place June 17-19, a week earlier than planned. It originally was to transit the capital Urumqi, Kashgar, and two other cities. A stage was set up near Kashgar's main mosque, apparently for torch ceremonies, but residents said there had been no new announcement on when the flame would arrive.
Raxit said Muslims in Kashgar have also been ordered to avoid any contact with foreigners, report any overseas journalists operating in the area and sign pledges denouncing separatism and supporting Beijing.Thousands of Muslims who were not residents of Kashgar and Urumqi also had been forced to leave those cities, he said.
More at: Canada Tibet Committee
Will Boris bungle the bunting ?
On August 24, Mr [Boris] Johnson will receive the [Olympic ] flag – held horizontally by its bearers, according to protocol – from Guo Jinlong, the Mayor of Beijing, via Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC).
The IOC is unflinching in its adherence to pomp and ceremony. The script dictates that he must wave the six-metre flag back and forth eight times. It will then be taken to City Hall to mark London’s four-year tenure as an Olympic city.
“I’ve been practising daily,” Mr Johnson admitted to an audience of British business leaders last week, adding that with three billion or so people watching, it would not be an astute political move “to drop it”.
See more at: Times
Submitted by Martin Slavin on Tue, 17/06/2008 - 08:06.