Since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, the Chinese government has often sought to portray violence by Uighurs as coordinated acts of terror. But, the 2007 U.S. State Department report on human rights noted, the Chinese government has "continued to repress Uighur Muslims, sometimes citing counterterrorism as the basis for taking action that was repressive." The report also noted that there were a high number of executions and mass detentions in the Xinjiang region.
Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who will head the U.S. delegation to the Olympic closing ceremonies, said in July that while security threats in China have to be dealt with, "security should not become in any way a cover to try and deal with dissent."
The Uighur American Association said that Chinese officials have exploited the "war on terror" and Olympics security concerns to wage a "sophisticated propaganda crusade against the Uighur people."
The group says the Beijing government is committing systematic human rights violations against the Uighurs on a massive scale, referring to religious repression, executions, and mass detentions.
The Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG) Security Department and the Chinese Embassy did not return phone calls requesting comment on this story.
What's more, human rights groups say, the Uighurs aren't the only minority group that has come under government target. The Tibetans are also likely to face greater scrutiny from the government, which human rights groups believe only hurts China and its image in the long run.
"It's not contributing to either a peaceful Olympics or a peaceful society," said Sharon Hom, director of the Human Rights in China, also based in New York. "They're targeting whole groups of people as terrorists."
Kristin Jones is a Fellow at the Toni Stabile Center for Investigative Journalism. Click here to read her latest CPJ blog post.