Faking the Olympic Spirit in China’s Muslim Region

As the Olympic torch continues its beleaguered relay through China’s Western regions, Der Spiegel reports on how it played in Kashgar:

On the day of the torch run, only invited guests from selected “work units” and schools were allowed to cheer on the runners from the roadside. The homes around the Idkah Mosque and the people’s square seemed deserted: No windows were open and no residents watched the spectacle from above. Meanwhile, soldiers, militia and police gathered in large numbers and hermetically sealed off the area around the mosque. They even stuck yellow tape over the storm drains.

The Chinese government is wary of its remote province, in particular of Kashgar. As in Tibet, Beijing sniffs a conspiracy in the autonomous Muslim region of Xinjiang — not by the “traitorous Dalai Lama clique,” but the Uighar separatists who are fighting for an independent East Turkistan.

Yet, how dangerous these groups are is unclear. Uighars in exile accuse Beijing of exaggerating the danger, to give it a reason to clamp down on religious groups.


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