Fri, Aug 01, 2008 - Page 24 News List

Reporters barred from Olympic-averse village

AFP, KEPING COUNTY , CHINA

Chinese authorities on Wednesday barred journalists from a village whose mosque was razed allegedly because locals did not support the Beijing Olympics.

Two reporters were stopped at a police roadblock and prevented from reaching Shangkumuli village in China’s far northwestern, mainly Muslim Xinjiang region.

“This has been declared a closed area. You cannot enter,” said a local government staffer at a police checkpoint on the lone road leading to the village.

Both China’s foreign ministry and the Xinjiang regional government declined to intervene on AFP’s behalf when contacted by phone about being barred from the village.

Authorities in late May razed the mosque in the poor desert village near the city of Aksu for “carrying out illegal religious activities” such as failing to follow government propaganda on supporting the Olympics, Radio Free Asia and an exiled Uighur group said previously.

China has acknowledged the mosque’s destruction but has said it was torn down because the structure was illegally built. Radio Free Asia said it was built 10 years ago.

The incident comes as members of Xinjiang’s ethnic Uighur minority allege China is cracking down on the region’s Muslims to suppress possible political demonstrations that could mar the Beijing Games.

China has warned repeatedly that Muslims in Xinjiang have been plotting to stage terrorist attacks on the Games, which begin next Friday.

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