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Olympic torch in town

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James Reynolds | 09:09 UK time, Wednesday, 18 June 2008

There's one slogan that I've now memorized (I had no choice - I've heard it perhaps several hundred times today): "Ao yun jia you! Zhong Guo jia you!" (translation: "Go Olympics! Go China!")

This morning, in the city of Kashgar, teenage volunteers chanted this slogan as the torch relay got underway (occasionally adding "Go Kashgar!" or "Go Sichuan!" - the province hit by last month's earthquake.)

Uighar Muslims walking past Beijing Olympics sign in KashgarSecurity for the torch relay here in the Xinjiang region has been tremendously strict (this region is home to 8 million Uighur people, who are Muslims. China says it faces a real terrorist threat from Uighur separatists - a claim disputed by human rights groups.)

The authorities here didn't want reporters wandering away off on their own during the relay. So, just after dawn, we were all driven to the square outside the Idkah mosque for the start of the relay (to help identify us, local officials gave each of us two red stickers and politely told us to put one on our chests and one on our backs.)

Once the opening ceremony was over, we were driven straight to another square to get ready for the closing ceremony (as we drove we saw that most - if not all - shops and businesses were shuttered. There were no cars on the road. Local people had been told to stay indoors.)

We weren't given the chance to watch the relay itself as it went through the streets - the torch was cheered along by carefully chosen crowds. My colleagues and I did manage to wander about 20 metres or so from the site of the closing ceremony to film some roads which were closed off - but we were quickly stopped by officials who told us that we were banned from doing this.

Just after midday, the closing ceremony came to an end, and we were allowed to walk away on our own. We passed one side street and saw a line of Uighur people who'd come out of their homes to catch sight of the relay. They were being watched by a police officer - he told us to stop filming them. So we walked on. We saw people slowly coming back onto the streets - to open up their shops. The Olympics came to their city - but not everyone got to see it.

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  • 1. At 09:38am on 18 Jun 2008, tommywang wrote:

    james james james

    in your eyes, rules are set to be broken right?

    are you ever going to learn to respect your host?

    terroist threat, it is not made up. if you've ever covered the murders or bombings you will know!

    at least this is happening inside china, unlike UK/US government's claim of terrorism when it is few thousand kilometers away.

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  • 2. At 10:17am on 18 Jun 2008, Rikey wrote:

    Since this report does not have that atitude against China, it sounds pleasant.

    Most Western reporters have a kind of negative atitude towards China's precaution to avoid disruptions, may that be from terrorists or from separatists or whosoever.

    I think China has all the rights to do so. Would it be wise to allow such elements to do the things that were done to the Twin Towers. Or the things that recently happened to the Olympic torch relay in Paris. When people have the right to protest, China has the right to shield.

    Human rights issue and the issue of nations's security must not be confused. People concerned should separate these two issues fair enough first and then go ahead with their complain to China's government.

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  • 3. At 10:33am on 18 Jun 2008, Jimitintin wrote:

    "local officials gave each of us two red stickers and politely told us to put one on our chests and one on our backs"

    laugh to death :D

    However I believe the threat from terrorist is real and Chinese gvmt reserves all the right to take any measure against them.

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  • 4. At 1:38pm on 18 Jun 2008, peter5566 wrote:


    Mr. James Reynolds appears rather ill-informed about the historic background of the militant East Turkistan Islamic Movement (ETIM) outlawed in China and its close connection with Al-Qaeda. It is a Muslim separatist group that has been listed as a terrorist organization in other countries including the US, Kazakhstan, Pakistan as well as the United Nations. Nowadays it continuously engages in terrorist activities in Xinjiang, supported by Al-Qaeda and often financed by some wealthy Uighurs in-exile.

    Its sabotage acts have led to repeated loss of lives of innocent civilians and undermining social stability that is vital to ongoing economic development of Xinjiang. Security measures are never enough in such sensitive region, a prey to various unfriendly external forces.

    I have traveled extensively in Xinjiang on several occasions in recent years. I have witnessed the continuous improvement of livelihood of the locals. Steady modernization is lifting more and more people out of poverty and illiteracy. The Uighurs, as well as the Huis who are also Muslims, are in general well respected by the Hans. Increasing number of them are getting richer and richer. Traditional ethnic cultures such as their unique grapes plantation, their lively dances, their colorful ethnic costumes, their charming songs and their tasty cuisines etc enjoy widespread, deep appreciation and popularity among the Hans, and their strong presence is seen across the country in the form of theatres, publications, art exhibitions, restaurants, street stalls and mosques in other provinces etc. Chinese are proud of the indigenous ancient construction of efficient underground water-supply system in Xinjiang, and of the amazing acrobatic skill of wire-walking of their Uighur compatriots. Not too long ago, an Uighur basketball player, a favorite member of the national team, became a national hero to every household in China when he was chosen by NBA, just like the Tibetan mountaineers who had scaled Mt Everest are highly regarded as national heroes.

    I regret to learn that many shops and windows along the Olympic Torch relay path in Xinjiang were closed and many enthusiastic citizens were unable to come out freely to the streets to greet the great event. To many Chinese, it is quite understandable that special precaution measures need to be implemented at special times on sensitive occasions to avoid disruptive incidents. This inconvenience is only temporary. As the region develops further, there appears an encouraging sign of a general trend of growing peaceful co-existence, friendly exchanges and mutual tolerance among different ethnic groups in Xinjiang, to the benefit of all of its residents.

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  • 5. At 4:37pm on 18 Jun 2008, tclim38 wrote:

    In the previous post, James says …
    “Human rights groups say that the Uighurs - a Muslim people - are oppressed by the Chinese state.”

    In this post, James says …
    “China says it faces a real terrorist threat from Uighur separatists - a claim disputed by human rights groups

    “Human rights groups” was mentioned in each post about Olympic touch relay in XinJiang. Not sure what he was suggesting.

    Having been living abroad for almost 30 years, my understanding is … “Human rights groups” always think they know human rights better than anyone else, they are above any governments, they are authoritative, because they are talking about the beautiful term “human rights”, which they can define it anyway they want, without fact checking..

    Please do some fact-checking yourself, Mr. Reynolds. Thanks.

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  • 6. At 4:45pm on 18 Jun 2008, howardzzzz wrote:

    James,

    In psychology your behavior pattern is so called " self-fullfilling", which means one person sets up a conclusion first, then find all the facts selectively to support his conclusion.

    It is a common trap for human mindset, because the "conclusion" is always perceived as "correct" due to the selective supporting evidences, however, it is actually wrong becuase all unsupporting facts are delibrately neglected.

    So I think your job in China shouldn't be go there with a pre-determined goal in your mind, and only describe the stories to support your goal, rather empty your mind first, draw conclusion slowly. It is more important for the readers to read a comprehensive story than to agree your personal conclusion.

    If you want to become a professional reporter, I suggest you learn some psychology lessons.

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  • 7. At 5:16pm on 18 Jun 2008, howardzzzz wrote:

    "I had no choice - I've heard it perhaps several hundred times today): "Ao yun jia you! Zhong Guo jia you!" (translation: "Go Olympics! Go China!") "

    James, if any people who cried out this slogan from their hearts read these mocking words, I don't know how they will feel.

    I hope I am wrong, but I do feel that your pleasure and satifaction comes from exploring others' imperfect parts, if this is the case, then you will never feel happy when Chinese people are happy, sad when Chinese people are sad.

    Why isolate yourself from the people around when you are in China? do you think you are any different from them? People think they are different, actually not.
    Races, languages, and politics should never be a barrier to bring people together as friends. So please be more open minded and enjoy you time in China. It is good for you.



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  • 8. At 5:48pm on 18 Jun 2008, southerncoaster wrote:

    it's a pity not everyone who wants to see the torch relay didn't get to see it. personally, I don't want to take any risk for a glance of some torch, although I consider myself a vivid sports fan, and I am glad that China is to host the grand game. To view this ceromony as some kind of showcase, it's just silly in my mind; you have loads of other ways to get to know a country

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  • 9. At 9:20pm on 18 Jun 2008, dennisjunior1 wrote:

    James:

    Thanks for covering the Olympic torch in Urumqi region in China for the BBC...

    The Chinese Authorities should have told you about the Restricitions on where you should or should not film....

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  • 10. At 04:23am on 19 Jun 2008, tkbutt wrote:

    As a child, I have always been fascinated by this exotic, far flung corner of China. To illustrate the sheer size of China, Kashgar is closer to Baghdad than to Bejing, yet since the birth of Christ the Chinese have had a strategic presence there.

    Rather being so disconnected in your reporting of Kashgar, could you please report on the sights, smell and sound of this mysterious place and its colourful people? Or do I have to go to a travel blog for that?

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  • 11. At 04:31am on 19 Jun 2008, taobo33 wrote:

    James:
    Just want you know last new year's eve when i and my girlfriend went to Big Ben to watch the celebrate fire show we(as well as many others) were blocked several streets away from big ben(where we wanted to go).

    Armed police were also everywhere......
    Similar example we can meet in EU countries are everywhere.

    In my opinion strong security measure is nessessary because you never know untill you get hit. Besides you wrote:"China says it faces a real terrorist threat from Uighur separatists - a claim disputed by human rights groups"
    Please answer me why you don't state the fact the UN also list the group which Chinese official claimed to be extremist group as terrorist group?

    I mean ...whenever you felt nessessary fact can become political propoganda and political propoganda can become fact the other way around if it matche the west's evil red communist China image?

    Anyway thanks for the report and it's interesting and obviously more attractive than just plainly describe the relay and the celebration.

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  • 12. At 09:09am on 19 Jun 2008, Kazan3000 wrote:

    Peter 5566
    It still doesn't change the fact that virtually all Uyghurs what a free East Turkistan where Chinese are not settling in mass in there occupied nation. It still does not change the fact that China is meddling in the lives of the people and depopulating areas of East Turkistan of Uyghurs and placing Han there, or the government programme in China set-out to transfer young Uyghur women from rural regions of East Turkistan to urban areas in the east. Or stopping young students from fasting during Ramadhan with the threat of expulsion. If you dont know of this you really haven't mixed very well with the Uyghurs during your travels to East Turkistan.

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  • 13. At 09:17am on 19 Jun 2008, davecromp wrote:

    I enjoy some of what I read on this blog, It's well written and articulate but, James, if you're so concerned about reporting what really goes on in China I suggest you -


    a) learn the language - and make some guanxi with people that can help you. It goes so far if you can directly communicate with Chinese people.

    b) Get off that journalist visa (travel around without translators/government minders) , mingle, talk to people - even live in a real city outside the coocoon of beijing/shanghai ex-pat zones.



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  • 14. At 10:30am on 19 Jun 2008, joostuitnl wrote:

    I watch BBC World News day by day. James is one of my favourite reports on BBC. It is quite difficult to criticize China while living in China. Because all journalists are heavily forced to write positive(pro-Chinese Government) articles on Chinese iuuses, including controversial Olympic.

    But I am really against Beijing olympic on the basis of human rights and freedom. Why does China hold Olympic? Olympic Games can't be more important to ordinary people's everyday lives and liberty. China still oppresses Tibet and other minorities in China. Why must international community look forward to celebrating their torch relay?

    On the other hand, Chinese human rights violations are without doubt severe. Not a few organs of death penalty prisoners have been on sale at black market. Even the perprtrator who killed a tiger was executed in China. This kind of accident cannot be imagined in Holland.

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  • 15. At 2:45pm on 19 Jun 2008, sneerDalai wrote:

    James, I have to say that you're making good progress when you write about China. For example, you have started call this country "China" other than "communist China", the government "China government" other than "the Chinese regime". That's very impressive! however, I think you still have a lot to learn on how to write properly on China. I think the best way for you to learn things about China and Chinese people quickly is to talk with a person who are friendly, wise and knowledgeable like myself.

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  • 16. At 3:19pm on 20 Jun 2008, shipspirrer wrote:

    @peter5566
    "friendly exchanges and mutual tolerance" - but not much tolerance from the PRC government [or you]

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  • 17. At 10:09pm on 20 Jun 2008, TibetForever wrote:

    quite interesting that many comments here are skewed towards support for China all the while Tibetans and Uighurs conitnue to suffer under the repressive policy of China. I guess PRC propaganda machine is fully at work even in these blogs. Free Tibet! Free East Turkistan!

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  • 18. At 10:39pm on 20 Jun 2008, YiXin921 wrote:

    Seriously I feel more secure when I stay in China comparing in London.

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  • 19. At 10:59pm on 20 Jun 2008, YiXin921 wrote:

    To 14. At 10:30am on 19 Jun 2008, joostuitnl wrote:

    Many minorities and Han people have been living in China together peacefully for more than 4000years. I also have many friends who are minorities, and they all love China. The reson why 99.99% Chinese people support the government now is just because last 2 decades Chinese government have done the best job to improve people's lives and now Chinese government can really listen to the voice from ordinary people, which is just Chinese people's understanding about democracy. And also learning from Chinese history Chinese people think centralization of state power is a basic condition for building a strong and stable country, so Chinese people do not care about if they have right to vote and they only care if the government can listen to them and if the government can really benefit them. This is Chinese style of democracy.

    And another important fact is that without people's support no one can rule China. Now China is a well organised country, which is just a good evidence that most of Chinese people are supporting the government.

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  • 20. At 12:09pm on 21 Jun 2008, lisagita wrote:

    Dear # 10 tkbutt,

    XJ has had been under Chinese rule since the Han Dynasty (before Christ). If I remember correctly, it was Emperor Han Wu Ti who made up his mind at a young age to get rid of the Hsiung Nu babarians who had been terrorising and killing Chinese for generations. In order to restore some peace to the Chinese people living along the border, it was not uncommon, that Chinese princesses were betrothed to the babarian kings in "political marriages" so that there would be some peace. They became more greedy and there was a Hsiung Nu king who wanted to conquer China. This spurred Emperor Han Wu Ti's determination to once and for all to completely drive these Hsiung Nus far away from the border to the other side of the desert. Hence, the Chinese army and the Chinese people spent huge resources to cut across the huge arid desert to completely chase the Hsiung Nus out the desert which stretched into XJ.

    This paved the way for China to start the silk route, and trade flourished bringing along with it the exchange of culture etc with the west.

    I was in XJ in 2002, a beautiful place and the Ugurs were warm people. However, like all other places, there were also some rough people. One thing for sure, all of them want to have a better life. People could move around and worship freely. These people love to dance, sing and make merry. I did not feel a bit that they were restricted in practising their culture and living their life.

    The scenery, cultural relics and historical sites in XJ and along the silk route are worth a second visit. I hope you can visit XJ and bet you won't regret it.



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  • 21. At 12:51pm on 21 Jun 2008, lisagita wrote:

    Dear # 14 Joostuitnl,

    Have you been to China ? and how much do you know about China ? By just watching BBC daily and reading biased reports from one jounalist, James Reynold who hardly knows about China despite his stay in China for a couple of years.

    The world is a very huge place and one quarter of mankind is living on this land, called China. There are more than one news channels on the internet and more than one journalist.


    From your questions of why China hold the Olympics, and the games cannot be more important to ordinary peoples' daily lives and liberty, sound like you know very little about China and current affairs.

    Oppression of minorities ? Goodness, I visit China annually for more than a decade to understand the country more, (just visited Tibet in August last year) and I can rest assure you the "oppression" is on the Han Chinese who have to fight for everything on equal footing with their fellow citizens. The minoirties are a protected and priviledged lots. James never told you that because he is not close to the ordinary people to find out more. Or maybe he konws but never want to report it.







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  • 22. At 2:11pm on 21 Jun 2008, tclim38 wrote:

    Mr. Reynold said ...
    "China sent huge numbers of security forces into Tibet to take back control - human rights activists say that many Tibetans were killed."

    I am so curious if "human rights activists" had said any Han innocent girls were burned to death".

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  • 23. At 07:41am on 22 Jul 2008, hughye wrote:

    I'm a little confused at what the situation could be interpreted like this! Even in inner-land city like Changsha where i lived the stores are closed too during the torch relay. And what's more it is actually that people are not encouraged to go the the sites. Just imagine how many people there will be given thought to how enthusiastic chinese are at Olympic and how many people China has. As to the 'carefully chosen crowds', that is overstated. Yes, chosen, but carefully? u make this sounds so bad and far from the fact. I'm sorry that u cannot wander around but even chinese media , I think, cannot wander around to report whatever they want.

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