China questions Olympics security after UK riots

More than 1,100 people have been arrested since violence erupted on Saturday.

Afp August 11, 2011

BEIJING: China's state media has questioned the ability of London's embattled police to "maintain social order" for the 2012 Olympics after Britain suffered its worst riots in decades.

More than 1,100 people have been arrested since violence erupted on Saturday in the north London district of Tottenham and then spread to other British cities, leaving three people dead.

"In less than a year, London will hold the Olympics, but will British society be able to maintain stability and will British police be able to maintain social order?" the state-run China National Radio said on its website.

A news website that comes under China's State Council, or cabinet, took a similar line, saying police now faced the added pressure of civic unrest on top of traditional threats such as terrorism.

"Although officials such as London Mayor Boris Johnson still express their faith in security at the Olympics after the riots, many unfavourable factors exist that make it hard for people to relax," said

Beijing hosted China's first Olympics in 2008, impressing the world with sparkling new facilities and seamless organisation.

But there was also widespread international criticism of China's destruction of the city's traditional neighbourhoods and of a major crackdown on freedom of speech ahead of the games.

The official Xinhua news agency said the violence in London, which erupted two days after police shot a man dead, revealed a "worrisome social mentality" in the aftermath of the global economic downturn.

"Given the painful economic distress and the virtual absence of any good way out of the trouble, a sizable segment of the public, especially the young, have become disillusioned, making them just a spark away from becoming anarchistic troublemakers," it said in a comment piece.

China is no stranger to social unrest, experiencing thousands of outbreaks every year.

At least 13 people died in the restive, northwestern region of Xinjiang at the end of July, in two separate knife attacks perpetrated by members of the mainly Muslim Uighur minority.

The Global Times newspaper used the riots to take a dig at Britain's media, accusing it of double standards.

"No human rights organisations expressed their concerns about the conditions residents of north London are experiencing," it said in an editorial, alluding to western nations' criticism of China.

Activist groups regularly raise concern about how China deals with domestic unrest, and have in the past accused authorities of violence against protesters or suspects, and of not respecting the rule of law, a charge Beijing denies.

Last year, New York-based Human Rights Watch said Chinese security forces brutally beat and even shot dead some protesters during unrest in Tibet in 2008, basing its findings on interviews with more than 200 witnesses.

Amnesty International has also accused Chinese security forces of "excessive use of force, mass arrests, enforced disappearances, torture and ill treatment" of prisoners during a crackdown after 2009 riots in Xinjiang's capital Urumqi.

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