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China detains hundreds of Tibet 'splittists'

Soldier in Tibet
China is using the global anti-terror fight to crack down on its own separatists  

By Willy Wo-Lap Lam
Senior China analyst

(CNN) -- Beijing has detained a few hundred suspected separatists in the autonomous region of Tibet since the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

Western diplomats in Beijing said the crackdown on so-called Tibetan "splittists" was conducted as part of a national "Strike Hard, High Pressure" campaign targeting separatists, terrorists and "religious extremists" that began in mid September.

But the diplomats said unlike Uighur separatists in Xinjiang -- who allegedly masterminded a number of bomb incidents in Xinjiang -- there had been no reports of Tibet activists using terrorist tactics.

In internal documents circulated since mid-September, however, Chinese central authorities have classified "splittists" in Xinjiang and Tibet, as well as the Falun Gong sect, as terrorist organizations.

China has said in the past that Uighur separatists form part of a global "East Turkestan" terrorist movement, some of whom have been trained in Afghan camps set up by prime terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.

Since the attacks on America, the Central Military Commission has sent more troops and People's Armed Police (PAP) to Xinjiang, where arrests of more than 2,500 suspected Uighur separatists have taken place under their strike hard campaign.

Monks and nuns

Beijing-based Western diplomats have said there are now a high number of troops and PAP officers in Tibet's major cities.

Tibetans detained in Lhasa and other cities included monks and nuns as well as intellectuals who had criticized Beijing's Tibetan policies, they added.

It is not yet known how long the Tibetan detainees will be held, or whether, as in other cases around China, some might be released after having "patriotic education."

But it appears clear that the "splittist" crackdown is part of a broader campaign by Beijing to jump on the anti-terror bandwagon.

This week China's state media ran a circular issued by Communist party and central government authorities on the need to raise the nation's guard against a rise in law and order problems.

Topping the list were "major threats to social security" infiltration and sabotage by hostile foreign forces, "disturbance by splittist forces at home and abroad," terrorists and religious extremists, as well as evil cults and criminal gangs.

The official China News Service (CNS) reported on Wednesday that public security officials in Xinjiang had confiscated and later destroyed more than 11,000 guns and rifles in a series of crackdowns on illegal weapon ownership.

CNS quoted senior police official Liu Keqing as saying some of the weapons were in the possession of "terrorists" as well as separatists.

By mobilizing more troops to the borders between Xinjiang and a number of central Asian states, Beijing is confident it can stop the supply of arms to Uighur underground fighters by foreign sympathizers.


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