Police warn of Olympic hijack threat

By Li Fangchao (China Daily)
Updated: 2007-08-21 07:05

Senior police officers and civil aviation officials have warned of the potential threat posed by hijackers during the upcoming Olympic Games.

"At present, China's anti-hijacking work is facing a series of new challenges," Zhang Xinfeng, vice-minister of public security, was quoted as saying by the Xinhua News Agency.

"Some international terrorist organizations are increasing their infiltration into China and civil aviation planes could be the target of a terrorist attack," he said.

Zhang, also a member of the State Leading Team for Dealing with Hijacking, said there have been about 600 terrorist attacks each year globally since 2004.

Wang Changshun, vice-minister of the General Administration of Civil Aviation, said the volume of air traffic at the country's main airports is expected to increase by 50 percent during the 2008 Olympic Games, as politicians, athletes, journalists and visitors flock to China.

"Our efforts to prevent hijacking, as part of the security for the Olympics, face a severe test," he was quoted by Xinhua as saying.

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The officials made the remarks after an anti-hijacking and aviation emergency drill conducted on Sunday in Dalian, a port city in Northeast China's Liaoning Province.

In one scenario, five terrorists from the East Turkestan Islamic Movement, which was labeled a terrorist organization in 2002 by the UN, hijacked a plane due to fly from "Haishan City" to Shenyang, capital of Northeast China's Liaoning Province, during boarding. They demanded the immediate release of their imprisoned accomplices and the freedom to fly abroad.

Local police immediately activated an emergency plan, raided the plane and subdued them.

In another scenario, a flight with 105 passengers and seven crewmembers aboard encountered a strong air current and was forced to land at "Haishan Airport". The plane then caught fire.

Workers at the airport were mobilized to extinguish the blaze.

More than 600 soldiers, police, armed police, health workers and firefighters took part in the drills, Xinhua said.

Vice-Premier Zeng Peiyan, who watched the drill, said that given the complexity of fighting terrorism, both domestically and internationally, China needs to strengthen its pre-warning system, improve its facilities, reinforce its fast reaction mechanisms and enhance its ability to deal with attempted hijackings to ensure safety at the Olympic Games, Xinhua reported.

Xinhua said the authorities have put in place an anti-hijacking system. It includes several bodies tasked with dealing with hijacking at various levels and air police.

Ten planes were hijacked from the Chinese mainland in 1993 and taken to Taiwan.

In February 2003, a man who attempted to divert a plane to Taiwan was subdued by crewmembers on board.

By law, hijackers could face the death sentence.

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