Chinese authorities have insisted that they will be able to hold a safe Olympics after foiling two terrorist plots, including one targeting the event. The other plot was apparently an attempt to crash an airliner from Xinjiang province to Beijing on Friday. The incidents have sparked a debate about the security arrangements in the country.
Beijing 2008 Olympic Games to start from Aug 8th
The Olympics are almost five months away and China has been increasingly witnessing incidents, which are raising concerns about its security arrangements. In January, the police had shot two suspected terrorists and detained 15 others, who were allegedly planning to disrupt the Games.
In early March, an Australian travel group was caught up in a hostage drama in the tourist region of Xian. The kidnapper was shot dead by police after he released all but one of the hostages. Now, officials have foiled a suspected terrorist plot to crash a Chinese passenger plane. The plane was on its way from Urumqi, capital of the northwest region of Xinjiang to Beijing.
These incidents demonstrate that China has to prepare itself well in the run-up to the Games, says a terror expert Li Wie from the International Anti-Terror centre in Beijing:
"Terrorist attacks have been planned for long. However the nature of the attacks is changing continuously. No country is 100 percent safe. Terrorist networks, such as Al Qaeda, are not weakened. They always find ways to plan attacks. “
Anti Terror Measures in Place
Interpol and the FBI have been assisting Beijing with the security arrangements ahead of the Olympic Games. Moreover, the country has itself put many security measures in place. During the Games, tens of thousands of troops of the Chinese People's Liberation Army will be on the alert, an estimated 800,000 security personnel with special training will be deployed to protect the venues, and around 150,000 employees of security companies along with over 600,000 volunteers will be stationed.
'Danger' with in the country
However expert Li Wei believes that despite this gigantic security arrangement, the greatest danger is from within china:
"The greatest danger is from a group which is called the East Turkestan Islamic Movement. It has been classified as an international terrorist group. In 1990s, the group had launched a series of attacks. Last year, the police destroyed a terrorist training camp in the Pamir region, which had been run by the group. So, stopping this group is going to be the main aim of the anti- terror fight here.”
The East Turkestan Islamic Movement is largely active in Muslim populated regions in China, such as the province of Xinjiang. The separatists Uighurs in the region have waged an insurgency for many years and are demanding for autonomy. China sees them as a threat, but many human rights groups believe Beijing is exaggerating the threat of violence in Xinjiang in the interests of exerting greater control in the area.