Critics question China's handling of alleged terror plot
Security experts question whether claims about Friday's domestic airliner incident amount to state propaganda to bolster a pre-Olympics crackdown.
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The apparent lax response of Chinese security officials to the incident has puzzled experts, Time magazine reports. Some have speculated that Xinjiang officials wanted to get publicity during the annual legislature, when intraparty competition for leadership attention is fierce. The foiled plots could help to burnish their antiterrorist credentials. But the security clearance given for the flight to continue to Beijing after the suspects were detained in Lanzhou was at odds with the seriousness of the reported plot, said Steven Tsang, a professor at Oxford University.Skip to next paragraph
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"This is more like an air rage incident in which you land and get rid of the troublesome passengers and then continue on to your destination. There's no way any anti-terrorism police would have released the plane and passengers to fly on without extensive interviews of the passengers, forensic examination of the plane and so on."
Blogger mutantpalm says that the crew may have overreacted to a false alarm. But China's fettered media are unlikely to dig deeper into reported arrests or ask why so few details are available of recent terror incidents in Xinjiang.
Given the recent wave of Chinese media reports about being vigilant in the face of Xinjiang terrorism in the run-up to the Olympics, its easy enough to imagine that a paranoid flight attendant on a flight from Urumqi might mistake hand cream left in the toilet for a bomb.
China is taking extraordinary measures to prevent any disturbances during the Olympics, including the recruitment of over 600,000 "security volunteers," says The Washington Post. An additional 90,000 police and thousands of military and border security personnel will be deployed. Police are also cracking down on domestic political activists and warily watching overseas pressure groups for any sign of dissent, such as the unfurling of banners protesting China's role in the Darfur crisis.
China has not detailed the exact costs of its security operations, but state media reports last year carried early estimates of about $300 million, a fraction of the $1.8 billion spent in Athens in 2004, the first post-Sept. 11 Summer Olympics. The cost in Beijing, where security forces receive much lower pay, is expected to rise.