Blogging Lite

Busy with freelance work and trip preparations. Let’s use this as an open thread. Play nice and make others feel at home.

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45 months…

…is the recommended sentence for this American soldier who murdered the Iraqi police officer he was working with.

Can you imagine the kind of sentence he’d receive if he ‘d murdered a beautiful white woman? 45 months — less than twofour years –would look like a holiday. Scott Peterson is up for execution!

My heart really does go out to all Americans serving in Iraq under unimaginable pressures. But at a time when we are kidnapping people in foreign countries just because maybe their name appears on some list and effectively ending their lives, this sure seems like a mighty gentle punishment for premeditated murder. Let’s all face it: white lives are worth a lot more than brown one (or yellow or black ones). It sounds like a gross miscarriage of justice.

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Chen Yonglin’s defection story holds up to scrutiny

In contradiction to earlier claims by Australian pompous asses diplomats, it now appears China hero Chen Yonglin did indeed make a formal request for asylum to Australia.

Hours after the defection of the Chinese consular official Chen Yonglin in May, Immigration officials passed a request for political asylum to the Foreign Affairs Department, a Senate committee was told yesterday.

The evidence contradicts the comments of the Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer, on June 8 in response to media questions about Mr Chen. “He didn’t lodge a formal application at all,” Mr Downer said.

The NSW director of the Immigration Department, Jim O’Callaghan, testified to a Senate foreign affairs hearing in Sydney yesterday that he received a letter from Mr Chen on May 26.

Mr O’Callaghan said he was surprised by the serious nature of the political asylum bid.

“On receiving the letter I could not recall when a person had sought political asylum at a DIMIA [Department of Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs] office,” he said.

The Foreign Affairs Department in Canberra had been contacted about an hour later and was sent a fax copy of Mr Chen’s letter asking for asylum….Mr Chen was subsequently advised to pursue a request for a protection visa. However, a protection visa was not granted for another six weeks.

Mr O’Callaghan yesterday defended a telephone call to the Chinese consulate in Sydney to verify Mr Chen’s identity after he arrived at the Sydney office of the Immigration Department. He said Mr Chen gave permission for the official contact with the Chinese consulate.

But Greens Senator Bob Brown denied this yesterday. Mr Chen is scheduled to appear at a Canberra hearing of the committee today.

I wouldn’t be surprised if that turns out to be a most interesting hearing, and not to worry – I’ll be covering it as soon as I get the details.

Oh, and the same article seems to verify Chen’s other claims, abot Chinese embassy staff being used to harass and monitor the Falun Gong.

In other evidence yesterday, it was claimed that Chinese embassy officials who were allowed into Sydney’s Villawood detention centre in May asked four members of the Falun Gong meditation group about their religious affiliations.

A Falun Gong representative, John Dellar, presented statements from the practitioners about their questioning by the Chinese officials, who were introduced by detention centre staff as “working for” the Immigration Department.

“Based on the written statements we have received, the practitioners were afraid,” Mr Dellar said.

He said Australian officials had underestimated China’s persecution of Falun Gong members, which included individuals being forced to return from other countries.

Luckily Chen’s revelations should bring about some serious reform of this harassment. It’s about time.

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Mysterious bacteria kills 17 Sichuan farmers

Really grim news.

Authorities in southwest China are investigating a mysterious disease that has killed 17 farm workers and left 41 others ill after they handled sick or dead livestock, state media said on Monday.

The government of Sichuan province has dismissed speculation that the deaths were caused by bird flu or Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS), an assessment affirmed by the World Health Organization.

“From the information we have it doesn’t seem to be related to bird flu. We made that distinction based on the symptoms described to us by the government,” Bob Dietz, a WHO spokesman in Manila, told Reuters by telephone.

“This (disease) doesn’t seem to have a large pneumonia content or a large respiratory problem,” Dietz said.

The deaths were probably caused by a bacteria that spreads among pigs, the state-run China Daily quoted Zeng Huajin, a senior official with the Sichuan provincial health department, as saying.

“Streptococcus suis (a pig pathogen) would fit the symptoms described to us, but we will wait for an analysis from the Ministry of Health,” Dietz said.

SARS emerged in south China in 2002 and spread across 30 countries, infecting nearly 8,500 people and killing about 800.

It re-appeared in China last year but there were only a few isolated cases. The Chinese government was accused of initially covering up the disease.

Global health officials also have been on high alert over a bird flu virus that has killed over 50 people in Asia since late 2003.

Initially, 20 farm workers suffered fever, nausea and haemorrhaging after handling sick or dead pigs and sheep in 12 towns and 15 villages in Jianyang city and Ziyang city’s Yanjiang district, the China Daily said.

But more cases were reported as health workers combed villages, the newspaper said. By noon on Saturday, 58 people suspected of contracting the strange disease had been reported in Ziyang and neighboring Neijiang.

The victims were sent to local hospitals, where two had recovered, 12 were in critical condition and 27 were stable, the official Xinhua news agency said

South China once again wins the world’s attention as the breadbasket for new sickness. Let’s hope they solve it soon with as little covering up as possible.

Thanks to commenters for bringing this up in the open thread.

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To get comments is glorious

So here’s a new open thread. Play nice (especially you, American Man!).

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To our new Chinese readers

Thanks to some recent free advertising, I have a nice increase in the number of Chinese readers visiting Peking Duck. I want you to know that getting comments from Chinese vistors is very important to me and helps keep this a dynamic, representational community. So I hope you can leave comments whenever you have a question or a thought.

Many Chinese people comment here now, like Bingfeng, Bing, Henry, Steve, Hui Mao, Jing, JR, Lin, Yi and many others. A lot of expats and former expats can be found here as well. Some love China, some don’t. Most have a lot of feeling for the Chinese people, while some (like me) can be very critical of the government — because they fear the CCP sometimes does not act in the best interest of its people. And I make the exact same crtiticism of my own government – I am extremely critical of Bush and American policies. Just look around and you will see!

Some commenters trying to be funny sometimes say silly things — about China and about America. You need to realize these jokers don’t mean any harm, and if I feel they are being malicious I will tell them to stop. If you see someone say something negative about China feel free to challenge them and give your own opinion.

Please look around. To the left you will see a list of my favorite posts on this site (The Emperor’s Jewels), and I hope you can look through them. You will see I used to be much more critical of the CCP back in 2002, and have grown to be increasingly tolerant. I know they aren’t necessarily “evil,” and I know there are many magnificent people in the Party who only want what is best for the country they love. And I feel the exact same way. Thanks for visiting. Comment freely, and have a good time.

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Doing business with “China Inc.”

For those of you who want to immerse yourself in information on China’s attempted acquisition of Unocal and all that it implies for the US, this massive article in the NYT is a must-read. It looks at far more than just the Unocal detail, and explores the different camps on both sides and their respective concerns and hopes about US-China trade relations.

China is both an engine of economic globalization and an emerging military power. In symbolic shorthand, it is Wal-Mart with an army.

The two sides aren’t neatly divided. But those who focus on economics tend to see partnership, cooperation and reasons for optimism despite tensions, while security experts are more pessimistic and anticipate strategic conflict as the likely future for two political systems that are so different.

In China, there are also two camps – the security hawks and the economic modernists, according to China analysts. The modernists see China joining the United States as the second great economic power of the 21st century, and the two nations sharing the gains from increased trade ties and global growth. The hawks regard that view as na├»ve, and fret that American policy is to remain the world’s only superpower and to curb China’s rise. So China’s response, the hawks say, is to try to erode United States hegemony and reduce America’s power to hold China down.

Both faces of China have been evident recently. Two weeks ago, a senior Chinese military official, Maj. Gen. Zhu Chenghu, said China should use nuclear weapons against the United States if the American military intervenes in any conflict over Taiwan. Then, bowing to pressure from the United States and other trading partners, China announced last Thursday that it would no longer peg its currency tightly to the dollar. It is a measured step, and it will not do much to moderate China’s huge trade surplus with the United States anytime soon. But the move is a sign of flexibility and accommodation.

“Do we see each other inevitably as antagonists, or do we see a world of globalization from which both sides benefit? That is the big issue,” said Kenneth Lieberthal, a senior official in the National Security Council during the Clinton administration.

“And that framework, one way or another,” added Mr. Lieberthal, a China analyst and a professor at the University of Michigan business school, “will drive an enormous number of policy decisions.”

So that is the China question: Is it an opportunity or a threat? If nothing else, the Cnooc bid for Unocal has shown how unsettled American thinking is on China and how deep the anxieties run, both in matters of national security and trade.

It is easy to dismiss Washington as a hot-air factory, but the scope of the outcry in Congress is significant. Resolutions and legislative proposals, all critical of Cnooc’s takeover bid, have piled up in the House and Senate, from Republicans and Democrats. A resolution presented last month by Representative Richard W. Pombo, a California Republican, declared that permitting the Chinese company to buy Unocal would “threaten to impair the national security of the United States.” It passed, 398 to 15.

Looking on as an amateur, I have to conclude the “China threat” school in the US is winning the PR battle; recent polls show vast majorities of Americaqns firmly against the takeover. Is that surprising? At a time when we’re all so worried, rationally or not, about China taking our jobs, it’s a real psychological blow to deal with China acquiring any major US company; but an oil company — that seems to cross all the lines, at least our emotional lines.

Read the article; it seems to represent every conceivable viewpoint, from pragmatic concerns about the takeover (voiced by former CIA director Woolsey) to less calm voices that see China’s armies ready to march into California any day now.

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Just imagine…

…if this had been Bill Clinton’s Justice Department:

The Justice Department blocked efforts by its prosecutors in Seattle in 2002 to bring criminal charges against Haroon Aswat, according to federal law-enforcement officials who were involved in the case.

British authorities suspect Aswat of taking part in the July 7 London bombings, which killed 56 and prompted an intense worldwide manhunt for him.

But long before he surfaced as a suspect there, federal prosecutors in Seattle wanted to seek a grand-jury indictment for his involvement in a failed attempt to set up a terrorist-training camp in Bly, Ore., in late 1999. In early 2000, Aswat lived for a couple of months in central Seattle at the Dar-us-Salaam mosque.

A federal indictment of Aswat in 2002 would have resulted in an arrest warrant and his possible detention in Britain for extradition to the United States.

“It was really frustrating,” said a former Justice Department official involved in the case. “Guys like that, you just want to sweep them up off the street.”

…At the time, however, federal prosecutors chose not to indict Aswat for reasons that are not clear. Asked why Aswat wasn’t indicted, a federal official in Seattle replied, “That’s a great question.”

Again, can you imagine the Republicans calling for Clinton’s scalp if this had happened six years ago? We won’t hear any more about it; we’re totally fatigued about this administrations incompetence.

Via Kos, where you’ll find some very spirited comments.

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To thread or not to thread?

What the hell – let’s do it.

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Above the law

Sully on the Bush administration’s legal maneuverings to keep the Abu Ghraib photos we haven’t seen yet out of the public eye.

A few weeks ago, I predicted on the Chris Matthews Show that more photographs of the Abu Ghraib abuses and torture would be released by the end of last month. After all, a judge had ruled in favor of the ACLU’s request for the materials. The government obeys the law of the land, doesn’t it? Not in this administration, which has, by presidential memo, declared the president above the law in fighting the war on terror. Now they have deployed one last, desperate tactic to keep the real truth about Abu Ghraib from reaching the public.

The Bush administration first argued that dissemination of the photos would violate the Geneva Conventions. Ahem. When that failed, they argued in a sealed brief to the court that the photos “could result in harm to individuals.” Like the soldiers and commanders responsible for abusing prisoners? Or the political masters who made such abuse legal? Look: I know we are at war and these photographs could inflame passions further. But they could also give the lie to the administration’s claim that the prison was only the site for a handful of rogue soldiers making up rules on the night shift. They could give the lie to the notion that what happened at Abu Ghraib was merely “frat-house rough-housing.” They could show rape and murder and torture – with legal cover sanctioned by White House memos. They could finally force someone to take responsibility for what happened, and for the policies that are still in place allowing for abusive treatment of prisoners.

We can fight a war and remain a humane, law-abiding culture as well. We’ll soon see if we still live in a country in which the president is subject to the law.

Sad news, Sully, but we probably don’t. It’s like the Freikorps in post-WWI Germany. They can do what they want. One thing’s for sure – these pictures scare the Bushies to death, as they should. If you’ve been reading Sy Hersh, you know once these photos are out the “few bad apples” meme is out the window.

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