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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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