Anger, terror warnings cloud Olympics

China said it was outraged by a resolution by United States lawmakers urging an end to a crackdown in Tibet as a Beijing-run newspaper linked al-Qaeda to claimed plots to attack the Beijing Olympics.

The condemnation came in response to a US House of Representatives resolution urging China to open dialogue with the Dalai Lama, end a crackdown on ”non-violent” Tibetan protesters and halt ”repression” in the restive mountain region.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu said her government was ”strongly indignant and resolutely opposed” to the resolution passed on Wednesday with the backing of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

Jiang said the US lawmakers should instead direct their ire at what Beijing calls the Dalai Lama’s clique, which China has blamed for deadly rioting in Tibet’s regional capital, Lhasa, on March 14 and subsequent protests across Tibetan areas.

”It is confusing black with white and is vicious-minded of certain members of the US House of Representatives to not only fail to condemn the attacks, smashing, looting and arson in Lhasa … but rather to point the spear at the Chinese government and people,” Jiang said.

The Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, has rejected claims that he orchestrated the violence, and Western governments have urged China to open up conciliatory contacts.

But China has underscored the gulf of perceptions over Tibet by saying that groups campaigning for independence there have joined militant Muslim Uighurs fighting for an independent ”East Turkestan” in the north-west region of Xinjiang.

China said on Thursday it had foiled ”terrorist” plots to kidnap foreigners and carry out suicide attacks around the Beijing Olympics in August.

Collusion

Police in Xinjiang detained 45 suspects, seized explosives and firearms and cracked two terrorist groups seeking to disrupt the Olympics, a Ministry of Public Security official said.

The Wen Wei Po, a Hong Kong newspaper backed by the mainland, said Uighur extremists were colluding with the exiled Tibetan Youth Congress and even al-Qaeda to target the Beijing Games.

”Al-Qaeda, the East Turkestan Islamic Movement and Tibetan Youth Congress are all planning to make the Beijing Olympic Games the target of terror attacks, and have strengthened collusion and collaboration,” said the paper in a commentary.

”The Dalai clique is not only implicated with al-Qaeda, it is colluding with the East Turkestan organisation.”

Human rights groups have said the Chinese government is using the perceived terror threats, denied by exiled Uighur groups, to justify tough political and religious controls in Xinjiang.

Konchok Yangphel, a New Delhi-based spokesperson for the youth congress, said the Wen Wei Po report was ridiculous.

”We are trying to stick to non-violence and demonstrations and have not engaged in violence,” he said by telephone. But he said the group did not rule out the possibility of violence occurring in Tibet ”if people are forced by Chinese violence”.

Australia’s Olympic chief, John Coates, said China’s announcement on the claimed Uighur threats showed ”just how seriously they are taking their responsibilities”, but said he knew of no threats to Australian athletes who will be in Beijing.

”There is no known security threat to our team in 2008,” Coates said in an emailed statement.

The accusations and denials come amid surging Chinese public criticism of protests and international rebuffs over Tibet that have dogged the Games torch relay.

China has condemned attempts to disrupt the relay in London, Paris and San Francisco. The next stop is Argentina.

Jin Jing (27), a wheelchair-bound Chinese torchbearer, has rocketed to national fame after the Paralympic fencer fended off protesters in Paris.

”I still feel very angry now, and I think the man was very irrational,” she said. ”Hosting the Olympics is such a good thing for our country, so why do they want to ruin it?”

Beijing Olympics organising committee chief Liu Qi briefed the International Olympic Committee (IOC) executive board on Friday and said organisers were working to avoid more chaotic scenes in the remaining legs of the relay.

”The organising committee underlined to us that they had taken steps to make sure any future risks would be mitigated and we are very confident and comfortable with that,” IOC director of communications Giselle Davies told reporters.

”We do hope that the torch relay can progress with many more smiles and cheers and the kind of atmosphere that it deserves.”

Kenyan Nobel Peace laureate Wangari Maathai pulled out of the Tanzanian leg of the Olympic torch relay this weekend to highlight her concerns about Tibet. — Reuters

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