BEIJING – China on Sunday sought to reassure thousands of Olympic athletes and tourists that Beijing was safe, after the murder of an American and another deadly attack in the nation’s Muslim-populated northwest.
Authorities said already tight security at tourist spots across Beijing would be stepped up with increased checks for sharp implements following the stabbing death of a US Olympic coach’s relative.
The attack, in which an unemployed Chinese man killed American Todd Bachman and also stabbed his wife and their local tour guide at a popular tourist spot in Beijing, raised security concerns throughout the Olympic community.
“You just have to be very careful when you go downtown,” Australian Olympic Committee president John Coates said, adding his athletes had been urged to wear their uniforms in public so police and Games volunteers could identify them.
But Beijing Olympic organisers insisted such measures were not necessary and that athletes or foreign tourists should not be fearful when wandering the streets of the Chinese capital.
“Beijing is a safe city, but unfortunately we are not immune to violent attacks,” Beijing Olympic Organising Committee (BOCOG) vice president Wang Wei told reporters as he expressed his condolences to Bachman’s family.
“With regards to the Games, we think we have sufficient security measures. (We hope to) make sure people have a good experience, but at the same time their safety will be secure.”
Bachman was the father-in-law of US men’s volleyball coach Hugh McCutcheon.
Bachman’s wife, Barbara, was in a critical but stable condition on Sunday at a Beijing hospital, the US Olympic Committee said.
The Bachmans are also the parents of 2004 volleyball Olympian Elisabeth “Wiz” Bachman.
Chinese President Hu Jintao expressed his sympathy over the murder, as he discussed the issue with US counterpart George W. Bush, who was also in Beijing to watch the Games.
“I would like to express my heartfelt sympathy to you and the family of the victims over this unfortunate incident,” China’s official Xinhua news agency quoted Hu as telling Bush.
The motive of the attacker, a 47-year-old man from eastern China who jumped to his death after the incident, remained unknown on Sunday with Chinese authorities releasing no more information.
Further raising security jitters, China reported eight people died in fierce clashes between police and attackers in its increasingly tense Muslim-populated Xinjiang region on Sunday.
Seven attackers died in the remote town of Kuqa as they tried to attack police and government offices, or in clashes with police afterwards, while one security guard was killed by an assailants’ bomb, Xinhua reported.
It was the second deadly assault in less than a week in Xinjiang, a vast area that borders central Asia home to what China says are Islamic terrorists intent on carrying out attacks to ruin the Olympics.
Two alleged Muslim militants using explosives and knives attacked policemen out jogging in the Xinjiang city of Kashgar on August 4, leaving 16 dead and 16 wounded.
Despite Chinese authorities previously talking up the Xinjiang threat to the Games, BOCOG’s Wang said Sunday’s violence should not be of concern for Olympic visitors.
“I do not believe this will have an impact on the Olympic Games… I do not think it is related to the Olympics,” Wang said.
Channel News Asia