Uighur Muslims undergoing 'Chinese political education'

East Turkistan is home to more than eight million Muslim Uighurs, a Central Asian people who have long chafed under Chinese control.

Uighur Muslims undergoing 'Chinese political education'
China has tightened pressure on Muslims in its remote west ahead of the Olympic torch's arrival next week to thwart any actions aimed at disrupting the relay, residents and exiles said.

The measures include detaining thousands in the East Turkistan region and forcing Muslim religious officials to undergo "political education" on "protecting" the Olympics, said Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the Germany-based World Uighur Congress.

With the Beijing Olympic torch expected in East Turkistan on its nationwide tour, authorities have also confiscated the passports of some Muslims, Uighurs said.

"They are afraid people might travel abroad and join some sort of plot against the Olympics," said a college-educated Uighur woman in her twenties, whose passport was taken by police here earlier this year.

The woman, whose name was withheld to protect her from police reprisals, was forced to cancel plans to attend graduate school overseas.

Calls to police and government officials in the East Turkistan capital Urumqi went unanswered at the weekend.

East Turkistan is home to more than eight million Muslim Uighurs, a Central Asian people who have long chafed under Chinese control.

In recent months China has said several East Turkistan-based plots have been smashed, including some specifically aimed at the August 8-24 Olympics.

Uighurs dismiss such claims as political cover for decades of repression and policies aimed at extinguishing their culture.

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, said last month.

Beijing Olympic organisers recently said the sensitive East Turkistan 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.

However, Olympic officials last week would not disclose up-to-date plans amid confusion surrounding sensitive relay legs following violent unrest in Tibet in March that laid bare simmering discontent in China's minority regions.

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.

China has blamed the confusion on schedule changes caused by the May 12 Sichuan earthquake.

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 independence and supporting Beijing.

Thousands of Muslims who were not residents of Kashgar and Urumqi also had been forced to leave those cities, he said.

"The Chinese Communists have enslaved the Uighurs politically. The Uighurs have lost all rights," he said.

The pressure triggered an attack with rocks and petrol bombs by Uighurs on a police station in the town of Sangong in late May, Raxit said previously.

Local police confirmed the attack, but refused further comment.

Agencies

Last Mod: 15 Haziran 2008, 14:24
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