As all eyes are on the Tibetan protests and the signs of international support for the Tibetan people, other peoples in the People’s Republic of China are struggling to make themselves heard and raise awareness about their plight. This is the case of the Uyghurs, who condemned the Chinese authorities this week for stepping up pressure on the Uyghur people under the pretext of a terrorist threat.
China Daily reported today that as many as 45 terrorist suspects have been detained in the last few weeks, all members of two different organizations based in East Turkestan (the region inhabited by the Uyghurs which is officially called Xinjiany, or “new territory”, in Chinese). According to police sources, these groups intended to kidnap foreign athletes and carry out suicide bombing during the Olympic Games. The suspects are said to have had explosives and texts about starting a “holy war”.
Although there is at least one terrorist group in the area listed by the United Nations, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), several organizations have aired their suspicions that Beijing could be exaggerating the terrorist threat in order to justify exerting greater control over the Uyghurs. Australia's World Uyghur Congress, for example, has suggested that this is “just a diversionary attempt to take the pressure off China because of what's happening in Tibet.” Meanwhile, The Guardian printed a statement made by Nicholas Bequelin of Human Rights Watch, in which he expresses doubt over the news from East Turkestan: “The problem is that because China has made such extravagant claims with respect to terrorism in Xinjiang - and because their definition of terrorism includes peaceful dissent and protest - it has become impossible to ascertain with any degree of certainty these types of claim.”