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China: The Olympics and Checkpoints in China

Since the August 4th attack in Kashgar that killed 16 Chinese police officers, officials have intensified security measures all over Xinjiang Province. Militia and troops from the People's Liberation Army man checkpoints on all major roads in and out of Kashgar. Passengers in both private and public vehicles must disembark from their cars or buses, walk through the checkpoint, show their identity cards or passports which are all scanned electronically, and pass through another blockade of sandbags and gates before getting back on the road.

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Noone moves without being watched. At gas stations, the same thing happens. Both the entrance and exit to the filling pumps are blocked off with ropes. Passengers have to get out and wait by the side of the road while the car's driver zooms into to fill up, and races back out. Few people complain with anything more than a whisper.

In the city of Kashgar itself, police cars with flashing lights patrol the streets.
There's a curfew of midnight or 1am. If a person is seen walking around that late, they could be arrested.

When I ask people why there are so many checkpoints and what it means to have their freedom of movement so restricted, they say, "It's the Olympics." On the closing night of the Games, several more police vans patrolled every corner of town. Several of them stopped at People's Park where a number of Han Chinese and Uyghur residents watched the final events on a giant screen situated next to a 70-foot statue of Mao Zedong.

One student whispered to me the following day that things will get worse soon. "After the Olympics, there will be a very big storm," he said quietly.