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Week of April 30, 1999

April 30, 1999

Next Summary

New Evidence and Release of Cox Report Heighten Concerns for U.S. Security


The recent discovery that files containing sensitive information regarding America’s nuclear bomb codes were transferred to an unsecure computer by Los Alamos scientist Wen Ho Lee has heightened concerns in the Administration and in Congress regarding America’s nuclear security.

The discovery, made last month by the F.B.I., has significantly broadened the investigation from the original focus on the theft of design specifications for the W-88 warhead, which fell into Chinese hands in the mid-1990s. The data Mr. Lee placed on an unclassified computer network would allow any nuclear power to replicate American atomic designs, eroding America’s nuclear edge.

This revelation raises new questions regarding the F.B.I.’s and the Los Alamos Laboratory’s surveillance of Mr. Lee from the time he was placed under investigation for the W-88 leak in 1996. Several committees in the House and Senate are holding hearings to determine the extent of the breach and determine which federal agencies failed to take proper precautions. Coupled with the recent completion of the Cox report—named for the chairman of this special committee, Representative Christopher Cox (R-CA)—on Chinese espionage and its impending release in an unclassified version, the transfer of the nuclear codes has increased levels of concern and outrage in Congress.

In response to the Cox report and these recent revelations, Senator Richard C. Shelby (R-AL) introduced legislation on April 27, 1999 that would restrict visits of foreigners from seven sensitive countries to three of America’s nuclear labs. China and Russia are among those seven countries. A companion bill was introduced in the House by Representative Jim Ryun (R-KS) last week. While the Administration is conducting its own investigation into the Los Alamos case, several officials including Energy Secretary Bill Richardson and President Clinton have cautioned against restricting the exchange of scientific information between American and foreign scientists.

As an issue of the utmost concern, Federal agencies and Congress are allocating substantial resources and personnel to the investigation of the Los Alamos case and a review of security at American nuclear labs. These investigations are certain to raise many more questions and will have an important impact on the nature of U.S.-China relations.

Previous Summary

Religious Protest Takes Leaders By Surprise


On April 25, a crowd of more than 10,000 demonstrators belonging to a Buddhist religious sect, Falun Gong, gathered outside Zhongnanhai, the compound in Beijing which serves as both home and office to Chinese leaders. The protesters, angered by criticism of their sect in a recent journal article, asked for its official recognition and demanded a meeting with Premier Zhu Rongji. There were no reports of violence and the crowd dispersed in the evening.

Falun Gong, a form of qigong, a traditional Chinese martial art, may have followers numbering 100 million. The group’s leader, Li Hongzhi, came to the United States two years ago after coming under pressure from Chinese authorities.

The demonstration took the Chinese leadership by surprise and was the largest since the pro-democracy demonstrators occupied Tiananmen Square a decade ago. For days, the Chinese press remained silent on the issue, then later strongly condemned the demonstration, issuing a warning to future protesters.

Throughout Chinese history, religious sects have often been at the center of rebellions and major disturbances, a fact not lost on Beijing. Furthermore, the Falun Gong demonstration comes at a time when Chinese leaders are particularly concerned with social stability. Economic and social system reforms have led to public protests, and 1999 is a year with several potentially explosive anniversaries, including the 10th anniversary of the Tiananmen Incident and the 50th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China.

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