Tuesday, 30 June 2009


So exactly who are these 17 Uighur detainees at the Guantánamo prison? The Bush administration concluded they were not enemy combatants. To the US, that is. But there appeared to be little doubt they were hostile to China; when they were caught in Afghanistan, “[t]here is nothing else there but to learn to fight the Chinese, and then go back again". A task force on Guantánamo Bay detainees recommended two Uighurs to be released in the US, an idea the Obama administration balked at in the end. But somehow, after over 100 countries refused to take the Uighurs, the Pacific nation of Palau (who has diplomatic ties with Taiwan, not China) was persuaded to “temporarily resettle” an unspecified number of the detainees. A Chinese FM spokesman urged the US "to implement the UN Security Council's relevant resolutions and its international obligations on counter-terrorism" and stop "handing terror suspects to any third country".

However, this "small thing that [Palau] can do to thank our best friend and ally" of the US was apparently not appreciated by the Uighur detainees, as they (but one) refused to relocate to Palau because "Palau had no army or navy to protect them and so they could be arrested by the Chinese authorities". With Palau seen by some as a tropical "paradise", maybe the Guantánamo prison isn't as horrific as human rights activists told us.

Four Uighur detainees were later released to the British territory of Bermuda as "foreign guest workers", a move that irked the British Foreign Office who was apparently not consulted in advance, and who now questioned whether the matter "is a foreign affairs or security issue for which the Bermuda Government do not have delegated responsibility."

Diplomatic Relations

The US House of Representatives approved legislation that authorises establishment of a Tibet Section in the US Embassy in Beijing and directs the Secretary of State to seek establishment of an American consulate in Lhasa. Good luck on the latter, as establishment of the consulate requires Beijing's approval.

Human Rights - Freedom of Expression

Some geniuses at China's Ministry of Industry and Information Technology apparently believed that is is possible, and desirable, to emulate Qin Shihuangdi's great feat of the 3rd century BC -- to build a wall against foreign attacks, only this time to build a Green Dam on the internet against pornography and other “unhealthy information”, as the Ministry decreed that all personal computers sold in China after 1 July 2009 must be installed the filter software that would enable the government to regularly update computers with an ever-changing list of banned Web sites. The US Government lodged a protest with China, complaining that "China is putting companies in an untenable position by requiring them, with virtually no public notice, to pre-install software that appears to have broad-based censorship implications and network security issue". The American letter also suggested that the Chinese rule "raises fundamental questions regarding regulatory transparency and notes concerns about compliance with [WTO] rules, such as notification obligations". The EU reaction was much less subtle, as the European Commission said the Chinese measure was "clearly to censor the internet and limit freedom of expression." Bowing to the pressure of the seemingly porn-loving international community and domestic netizens, the Chinese Ministry delayed the mandatory installation of the filter. The Ministry argued that the measure is for the "public good" and does not contravene WTO rules.

Law of the Sea

Some Hong Kong casino boats reportedly offered on-board gambling in the mainland's territorial waters. Although gambling in the mainland is illegal, the mainland border police had been lax in enforcing the law.


A U.S. Committee for Human Rights in North Korea published a report documenting North Korean women who fled to China, were sold into marriages and lived without legal status. The report said that North Korean defectors are mostly women from working-class and farm backgrounds who fled because of hunger and poverty, not political oppression.


Chinese legislature approved a lease to Macau of over 1.09 sq km of land on Hengqin Island as the new site for the University of Macao until 19 December 2049. Macau will exercise jurisdiction in the leased area save in the case of emergencies when Chinese police and firefighters may intervene.


A Chinese government spokesman dismissed foreign media reports that China had adopted "buy China" protectionism in a recent circular to boost domestic demand. He said the circular was not new policy targeting China's stimulus plan nor prejudice against foreign companies or goods, and since China was not party to the WTO agreement on government procurement, Chinese law and requirements were not contrary to her international obligations.

Law of the Sea
Diplomatic Protection

After Indonesian authorities detained 8 fishing boats and 75 fishermen from China for illegal fishing in Indonesia's EEZ, a FM spokesman expressed "strong dissatisfaction", saying the fishermen were in China's traditional fishing grounds off the Nansha islands and demanding their immediate release. Indonesia later released over 50 of the detained fishermen.

Climate Change

In the course of the negotiations leading up to the Copenhagen summit in December 2009 to forge a successor to the Kyoto protocol. China took a hard line, calling on industrialised countries to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 40 per cent by 2020 from 1990 levels and committing at least 0.5-1.0 per cent of their annual economic worth to help poorer countries cut their greenhouse gas emissions and cope with global warming. In what some called "the most complex diplomatic negotiations in the history of the world", China and the US tried to bridge their differences in climate talks, with China refusing to accept absolute limits on her emissions, preferring voluntary domestic targets instead. After Japanese Prime Minister Taro Aso announced a 15 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from 2005 levels (equivalent to 8% cut from the 1990 levels), a Chinese FM spokesman said the Japanese target "falls far short from the present task of tackling climate change as well as the aspirations of the international community". China also criticised the US climate change bill as setting the bar too low and offering the world a poor example.

International Organisations

A FM spokesman said China is "strongly dissatisfied" with the Asian Development Bank over its approval of the Country Partnership Strategy for India (2009-2012) which included $60 million financing of the watershed development project in the "Arunachal Pradesh", an area disputed between China and India. While India reportedly hailed the ADB decision as a diplomatic victory, ADB maintained that, under the ADB charter, it must not interfere in the political affairs of any member and has no position on territorial disputes between members.

Dispute Settlement

Despite the enormous trade surpluses China has enjoyed, the US and the EU still want China to export more -- for some products at least, as they brought a legal action against China at WTO in relation to China's export restrictions on about 20 industrial raw materials. MOFCOM said that the restrictions were meant to protect the environment and complied with the WTO rules.