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China says it will increase Games security

China said Tuesday it would step up security measures for the Olympic Games, but refused to reveal any further details on mysterious bus blasts in the country claimed by a Muslim separatist group.

“The Chinese government will enhance its security safeguarding for the Olympic Games,” foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao told reporters.

But Liu refused to disclose further details about the deadly bus blasts in Shanghai and the southern city of Kunming, after a group claiming to represent Muslims in China’s far northwest said it was responsible.

“The police authorities of China have already made clarifications on the issue, and they have no more to add,” he said. The spokesman did reiterate that there was no evidence of any link between the Olympics — due to start on August 8 — and the explosions in Kunming last week.

“I don’t think it has any direct contact with the Beijing Olympic Games,” he said. Police on Saturday denied claims that a group calling itself the Turkestan Islamic Party was behind both the Kunming blasts and those in Shanghai in May, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

However the Xinhua dispatch was the only official reaction to the Turkestan Islamic Party’s claims, and the government has given very little information as to the circumstances surrounding the blasts.

According to global intelligence analysts Stratfor, the Turkestan Islamic Party is another name for the Islamic Party of East Turkestan (ETIM), a group seeking independence for northwestern Xinjiang.

China has previously said ethnic Uighurs living in that region were planning to stage attacks on the Beijing Olympics, which begin on August 8.

But rights groups have accused China of exaggerating the threat as an excuse to silence dissent in the region, where many complain about decades of repressive Chinese rule.

Olympic host city Beijing has already seen a huge security clampdown ahead of the Games next week, including checks at subway stations, restrictions on visas for foreigners and anti-aircraft missiles placed near sporting venues.

About 150,000 police and other security personnel will be on hand to safeguard the Games, Chinese officials have said previously.

Beijing, AFP

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