Security stepped up in Xinjiang for National Day

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 28 August, 2008, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 28 August, 2008, 12:00am

About 200,000 public security officers and armed police have been mobilised in the restive Xinjiang region to ensure public safety during the celebrations for National Day on October 1, the Hong Kong-based Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy said in a report yesterday.

The rights watchdog quoted anonymous sources as saying that the security forces would conduct a thorough check on the 'floating population', such as migrant workers, travellers and non-resident people in the Xinjiang region.

Hotels, rental flats, houses and even remote villages would be searched, the centre said.

Also, in the most sensitive areas, such as Kashgar and Hetian , there were orders calling for an extreme policy that would allow for the family members and even neighbours of potential terrorists to be punished, the centre said.

'Under the new regulation, if any terrorist activities have been confirmed in the area, all neighbouring households of [the terrorist suspect] will be implicated and the family members will be punished,' it said.

The security level had been raised because the regional authorities learned from intelligence that the possibility of a terrorist attack around National Day was high, it said.

The regional government had decided to extend 'the period of alertness' until after October 1. Xinjiang was hit by three terrorist attacks in the run-up to and during the Beijing Olympics.

'More and more information pointed to the high likelihood of another round of terrorist attacks around October 1,' the report said.

Beijing-based terrorism expert Li Wei said terrorists might not choose National Day for an attack.

'Terrorists are unpredictable. You never know when they're going to get into action. I don't think the National Day period is necessarily the riskiest.'

He said it was standard for the regional government to launch a crackdown on potential terrorists around a big celebratory occasion.

Early on August 4 two Uygurs rammed a stolen truck into a squad of 70 jogging border police in Kashgar before detonating two bombs, killing 16 officers and injuring 16 others.

On August 10 a series of explosions hit the city of Kuqa , killing at least 12 people. Another three security guards were stabbed to death by assassins at a checkpoint in Shule , an outlying county under the jurisdiction of Kashgar prefecture.