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Stephen McDonell offers Beijing update -

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Stephen McDonell offers Beijing update

Broadcast: 04/08/2008

Reporter: Tony Jones

South East Correspondent, Stephen McDonell, talks with Tony Jones from Beijing about the threat
China's extremists pose on the Beijing Olympics.


TONY JONES, PRESENTER: Our China correspondent Stephen McDonell can now joins us live from Beijing.
Going back to our original story Stephen the attack in Xinjiang, it's along way from Beijing.

Do these militants have the capability of hitting the capital during the Olympics?

STEPHEN MCDONELL, CHINA CORRESPONDENT: Well Tony it's one thing to be running around the enormous
Provence of Xinjiang and mounting these guerilla style attacks and then running off to hideouts in
remote areas, and in a place where you blend in with everybody else.

And quite another to come to Beijing to mount an attack. You have to remember these people are
Turkic people, os they do stand out in Beijing. And a lot of just ordinary Xinjiang people have
been cleared out of Beijing possibly because of these fears; that the authorities think they might
be somehow aligned to some sort of a separatist group.

So it is going to be quite something for them to actually attack the Olympics given the level of
security that we have now in the capital.

TONY JONES: And the complaint that you hear from of these Turkic atavists is that the region has
been deliberately populated by the Government with Han Chinese, is the same sort of thing you hear
in Tibet in fact from separatists there.

I mean do they have a point is it true?

STEPHEN MCDONELL: Well they're saying that their culture, they're ethic Uighur people, that they're
Muslims, that they have their own language, that they don't look like Han Chinese and they feel
their culture is being swamped by another people.

Now, you know, the degree to which that's true or not I suppose is for people to judge by going
there and speaking to them. Of course the difficulty is for us to report from there it's also
heavily restricted. Similar to Tibet, really.

So I suppose we have to try and weigh it up as to how legitimate these grievances really are and
whether or not true independence is what's needed or some sort of autonomy or something.

TONY JONES: It raises the question obviously of what it is they're trying to achieve. And the other
question, as to whether or not they have links to other militant groups?

STEPHEN MCDONELL: Well according to the Chinese authorities they are linked in with these sorts of
international groups. For example, in Afghanistan, in Pakistan, all the Stans, in fact, which
border Xinjiang?

Now there are people for example in Guantánamo Bay who were Uighur Muslims, so the Chinese
authorities claim they are part of this international terrorist network, and that I suppose that
means their orders may well sometimes come from overseas.

TONY JONES: Stephen, there's been a news tonight of a small demonstration quite close to Tiananmen
Square, what can you tell us about that?

STEPHEN MCDONELL: Yes well a group of disgruntled residents from the area known as Chanmen, not to
be confused with Tiananmen, close to there. This is one of the areas where the Hu tongs, the old
courtyard houses, have been knocked down to make way for development.

No the people who used to live there, in these sort of traditional famil houses, say they haven't
been given enough compensation. So they've seized on this moment to complain and protest in front
of reporters, from overseas.

And of course the authorities didn't look on this terribly well and cleared them off. And we saw
scenes of people clashing with the local police, and being dragged away kicking and screaming.

TONY JONES: I mean is this just isolated do you think, or are we going to see similar incidents
like this in the lead-up to the Games and even as they're going?

STEPHEN MCDONELL: Well it kind of depends how bolshie people feel. There are three designated
protest areas in parks, but you need permission to go there, you need to apply in writing five days

And a lot of people would believe simply that they're not going to have that opportunity to
protest. And they think well if anyone is going to hear our grievances now is the time, and that
there is a degree of protection because the world's international media are here so we may well see
some more of these protests.

I don't think they'll be large in scale, but I think the opportunity is there if some people to
take it.

TONY JONES: OK Stephen McDonell I'll have to leave you there. Thank you very much.