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But human rights watchdog groups have accused Beijing of using the terrorist threat to “justify harsh repression of ethnic Uighurs, resulting in serious human rights violations,” according to Amnesty International.

Uighurs “were the only known group in China to be sentenced and executed for political crimes such as ‘separatist activities,’” the London-based group said in its 2008 annual report.

Rebiya Kadeer, head of the Washington-based Uighur American Association, was one of five Chinese dissidents who met with President Bush last week ahead of his trip to the Beijing Olympic Games - a visit that infuriated Chinese officials.

She has accused China of using security for the Olympic Games as an excuse to crack down in Xinjiang, saying the Beijing government had provided no hard proof of terrorist activity in the region.

“I respect the Chinese people’s desire to hold the Olympic Games, but I lament the fact that the Chinese government is using the games themselves to intensify the persecution of the Uighur people,” she said in a recent statement.