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2008 Olympics-in-China Security Threat Assessment

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The Falun Gong, Tibetan youth, Uighur separatists and disgruntled sections of the local population due to perceived issues of economic injustice would constitute the four internal sources of concern to the Chinese authorities responsible for the security arrangements before and during the Olympic Games of 2008, which are to be held in China.

2. These elements are unlikely to indulge in acts of violence directed against the foreign participants in the Olympics. Their likely targets would be more Chinese authorities and leadership. Their aim would be not to cause death, but disruption in the arrangements for the Games and political embarrassment for the hosts. The disruptions could be in the form of acts of sabotage directed at the Games infrastructure such as the Games villages, hotels, airports, railway stations etc undertaken much before the inauguration of the Games. Apart from causing disruption, successful acts of sabotage could create feelings of insecurity in the minds of participating national teams and make them have second thoughts about their participation. The Falun Gong has many cyber disruption experts and one should be prepared for attempts by it to disrupt the information infrastructure set up for the Games. Other likely threats from these elements would include shouting slogans, demonstrations and acts of self-immolation.

3. There is an ambivalence in the attitude of Al Qaeda and its International Islamic Front (IIF) towards China. Generally, the Muslims of the world look upon China as their well-wisher because of its assistance to Pakistan in developing a military nuclear capability—-the Islamic bomb— its assistance to Pakistan, Iran and Libya in developing a missile capability, its opposition to the US invasion and occupation of Iraq and its support for Iran on the nuclear issue. At the same time, they look upon the Xinjiang province of st1:placename w:st=”on”>China /st1:placename> as rightfully belonging to the Islamic Ummah and support the struggle of the Uighurs for their separation from China . They also support the struggle of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) for an Islamic Caliphate in Central Asia consisting of the Central Asian Republics and the Xinjiang Region of China.

4. While they would have no motivation for targeting Chinese nationals, interests and prestige before and during the Games, they would be strongly tempted not to miss this spectacular occasion for mounting an act of terrorism directed at the participants from the US, the UK, Australia and other countries forming part of the occupying forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. The tight security arrangements being made by the Chinese authorities would make it difficult for them to infiltrate into China before and during the Games. A danger is of their infiltrating as members or office-bearers of the national teams from Iraq and Afghanistan participating in the Games. The explosion in the cafeteria of the Iraqi Parliament, which is located inside the highly protected Green Zone of Baghdad, on April 12,2007, showed how the resistance-fighters managed to get into the Zone under the garb of the security guard of one of the Members of Parliament. There has been large-scale infiltration of Iraqi security forces, Government departments and other institutions by the resistance fighters and Al Qaeda. It should be easy for them to infiltrate the national contingent from Iraq for the Games. So too in the case of Afghanistan .

5. The Chinese authorities have to address two questions: First, should they allow each national team to bring its own security team? Second, if so, should they insist that the security teams accompanying the national contingents should be from State security agencies and not from private companies? Verification of the antecedents of private companies and their personnel and a strict security control over them could be very difficult.

6. During the current World Cup Cricket tournament in the st1:place w:st=”on”>West Indies , those desirous of bringing their own security teams were allowed to do so. The Indian team was accompanied by a team of the National Security Guards. Despite the tight security arrangements made by the West Indies authorities, an unidentified killer managed to reach the hotel room of the coach of the Pakistani team and allegedly kill him. The local police investigating the case are still groping in the dark. This shows how easily a determined and well-motivated person could infiltrate even seemingly strong security arrangements and commit an act of violence. The Chinese authorities should study the security arrangements made in the West Indies in order to understand how this could have happened.

7. There is seething anger against the Chinese in many African countries due to reasons such as their support to dictatorial, anti-people regimes as in Sudan and Zimbabwe, the import of a very large number of Chinese workers to work in the local Chinese-aided projects and the resulting perceptions of deprivation of jobs for the sons of the soil. This sons of the soil anger against the Chinese could be exploited by mischievous elements to infiltrate the teams from these countries and create incidents during the Olympics.

8. For a spectacular occasion such as the Olympics, collection of precise preventive intelligence regarding security threats would be very difficult. The flow of preventive intelligence would be largely a matter of luck. The only way of ensuring the security of the Games would, therefore, be through very tight physical security. An exercise should be undertaken to visualise various likely scenarios and prepare a physical security plan to foil those scenarios and a crisis management plan to deal with the situation if any of those scenarios becomes a reality despite tight physical security. Strict verification of the antecedents of all participants—sportsmen or officials– is a must.

( The writer, Mr.B.Raman, is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. e-mail:

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