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China Urges People in Restive Xinjiang to Watch Olympic Relay at Home

The people of Xinjiang in far western China, including millions of ethnic Uighurs, have been advised to stay home during their Olympic torch relay on Tuesday "for safety reasons."

A top sports official in Xinjiang, Li Guangming says safety concerns arose because so many people are expected to turn out to watch the Olympic flame as it passes through Urumqi, the regional capital. He advised would-be spectators to tune into television instead.

Xinjiang has eight million ethnic Uighurs, most of whom are Muslims. The Chinese government has cracked down hard on separatist activity in the area, and accused Uighur activists of trying to make Xinjiang an independent state.

A spokesman for the World Uighur Congress, Dilxat Rexit says the stay-at-home message is intended to create a false atmosphere of harmony in the restive region.

The spokesman says China is using the Olympics as an excuse to continue its crackdown on his people.

China claims to have cracked at least two Xinjiang-based terror plots this year. One involved an attempt to blow up an aircraft flying to Beijing; another to kidnap foreigners and carry out suicide attacks during the Olympics.

After parading through Urumqi on Tuesday, the Olympic torch relay will head to Kashgar, another city in Xinjiang, on Wednesday. The timetable for the torch relay through Xinjiang is now one week earlier than scheduled, after China announced a postponement Sunday for the controversial Tibet leg of the Olympic symbol's tour.

Media reports say the Tibet leg also has been shortened, and may be limited to the capital, Lhasa.

Officials have not given any reason for the changes, but they follow postponement of the torch relay in Sichuan province after last month's major earthquake there May 12.

Some Tibetan exiles and human rights activists have called on China to cancel the Tibet relay.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.



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