China vows to boost Olympic security

China vowed Sunday to step up security for the Beijing Olympics, warning of an unprecedented threat to the Games amid reports that two "terrorists" were executed in the mainly Muslim far northwest.

With up to 80 heads of state expected to attend the August 8 opening ceremony, China said it was faced with a "huge responsibility" to defend its own people, Olympic athletes and visiting dignitaries.

Rioting and looting in Tibet this year and recent police battles with "terrorist groups" in far northwest Xinjiang region were evidence of real threats to sabotage the Games, the leading People's Daily said in an editorial.

"As far as China is concerned, the international situation and the political environment is becoming increasingly complicated by the day, and the dark clouds of terrorism on our borders are a fact that cannot be ignored," it said.

"Up until the present, we know there will be 80 heads of state attending the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony -- as the host nation, we are faced with unprecedented pressure and a huge responsibility."

The commentary defended massive security efforts that have resulted in a missile battery being placed outside the main Olympic Stadium, as well as a raft of new regulations restricting the movement of people and goods.

It also derided Western press reports that have expressed fears that the stringent security measures would result in a "cold and cheerless Olympics."

"These incidents (in Tibet and Xinjiang) show... that the Beijing Olympics is facing a terrorist threat unsurpassed in Olympic history," the People's Daily said.

The paper said the threat had become more real, "especially as the peaceful protests of anti-China forces like those linked to 'democracy movements' outside the nation become violent attacks by Tibetan and Xinjiang separatists."

Ongoing crackdowns in Tibet and Xinjiang have been motivated by Olympic security concerns, the government has said.

According to US-based Radio Free Asia, two ethnic minority Uighur Muslims convicted of terrorist and separatist activities were executed last week in Xinjiang. Fifteen others were jailed for similar crimes.

China announced last week that 82 "suspected terrorists" had been detained there this year for allegedly plotting to sabotage the Olympics.

State press also said last week that police had shot dead five knife-wielding Muslims and detained 10 others in Urumqi, the capital of Xinjiang, who allegedly wanted to launch a "holy war".

The People's Daily said that when China was awarded the right to host the Games in 2001, its number one commitment to the International Olympic Committee was that it would maintain security.

"In order to fulfil this commitment, China has built the most strict prevention and control system in Olympic history, adopting a series of security measures rarely seen," it said.

Such measures include security checks on roads, at airports and in train and subway stations, as well as stricter controls at borders, including tough new visa application requirements, it said.

Authorities in Hebei province, which surrounds Beijing, announced Saturday that check points would be set up on all roads leading into the capital from July 20.

"Our province must strike hard and our police must firmly attack the evil forces and wipe out those who seek to dominate and endanger others," the Hebei government said in a statement on its website.

"We must prevent any person with ulterior motives from entering Beijing and we must prevent any dangerous or illegal materials from entering Beijing."

Also on Saturday, Beijing unveiled its new special armoured rapid response team that includes 39 new bullet-proof vehicles that will patrol the capital during the Games.

Copyright © 2008 AFP

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