Sixteen Chinese policemen have been killed in the western Muslim Xinjiang region days before the opening ceremony at the other end of the country in Beijing. The attack on a border outpost in Kashgar, Kashi in Chinese, is close to the Turkmenistan border and is the latest terrorist act after a series of incidents claimed by the Turkmen Islamic Party in the past month.
The Chinese repression of the Uighurs is often overlooked by the far more high profile, media friendly, campaign for freedom in Tibet, but is another example of China's continuing appalling human rights record which it promised to clean up before the Olympics come to town this Friday. Sadly the IOC has not held China to its promise for improvement in this area since awarding it the Games of the 29th Summer Olympiad.
The Uighurs are a Muslim people who have been suffering religious suppression under the Chinese regime in the duel names of anti-separatism and counter-terrorism. Sadly the Chinese authorities appear to have been using the post 9-11 fear of Islamic extremists to persecute all Muslims in the region irrespective of activity even if totally peaceful. About have of the detainees being held in Xinjiang's re-education camps are there because of engaging in alleged illegal religious activities. However, the state control over religion in the is as harsh as in the 70s and 80s and the net is so tight that almost anyone can be detained under such guidelines at the whim of the authorities.
Many of the Uighur may well be becoming more militant as a result of the suppression, as with those other groups that China is overlooking and suppressing. So therefore with the worlds media gathering on China and with this attack in an outlying region there must be some concern as to what may happen nearer the Olympic venues from the various repressed groups seeking to draw attention to their causes. Chinese authjorites say they are prepared for action should any threat arise in Beijing, but one wonders just what sort of action that will entail knowing China's past record in such situations.