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Week of August 6, 1999

Week of August 6, 1999

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Tension in the Taiwan Strait


The current tensions in the Taiwan strait, unlike the 1995 crisis, caught the White House completely off guard. When Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui announced to a German reporter last month that his government would only deal with China on a "state to state" basis. To China, which views Taiwan as a renegade province, this statement was too close to declaring independence. Part of Chinaís Taiwan policy is that it reserves the right to use force if Taiwan were to fully split from the mainland and declare itself a separate state.

Assistant secretary of state for Asia, Stanley Roth, said that in the last three days Washington has sent several urgent messages to both Beijing and Taipei demanding they reduce air sorties across the halfway mark in the Taiwan strait. Last week, Roth went to Beijing to duscuss the current tensions between China and Taiwan with Chinese officials. He stated that while there was "no sign of imminent hostilities" accross the Taiwan Strait, "we do not know if our warnings not to engage in military activity will work. The risk of escalation remains."

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee is currently discussing legislation proposed by the committee chairman Jesse Helms, R-N.C., and Senator Robert Torricelli, D-N.J., that would expand the military provisions of the 1979 Taiwan Relations Act. The bill would have to be passed with a two-thirds majority by both houses in order to circumvent an almost certain presidential veto by Clinton. This legislation would allow for additional arms slaes to Taiwan, and set up a hotline between Taipeiís military and the US Pacific Command.

Last month, Taiwanese President Lee Teng-hui provoked anger from the Chinese government by declaring that relations between Taiwan and China be conducted on a special "state-to-state" basis. Beijing has kept up pressure on Taiwan with military maneuvers. Last Saturday, the Chinese seized a Taiwan cargo ship near a Taiwan military post on Matsu, a heavily fortified island under Taiwanese control. This was followed up with the test launching of the Dong Feng-31 missile.

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Religious Movement Outlawed, Crackdown Continues


On July 22 the Chinese government outlawed Falun Gong, a Buddhist-based spiritual movement that has gained millions of followers throughout China. The Ministry of Public Security warned that anyone discovered posting flyers or carrying out any activities in support of the group will be held criminally responsible and face spending time in a labor camp. Falun Gong adherents in Hong Kong, Australia and in Washington, DC congregated outside Chinese embassies to protest the crackdown. Many see this government crackdown as an example of Beijingís sensitivity to any potential threat to its stability, as well as an example of the growing disillusionment many Chinese have with the ideological values of the communist party.

The government in Beijing is focusing weeding out followers of Falun Gong from within the communist party and have detained some 1200 government officials who are members of the movement. According to the Hong Kong-based Information Center for Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China, the cadres were taken last weekend to schools in northern China where they were required to study Communist Party documents and to renounce any allegiance to the movement. Police in several provinces raided book dealers and destroyed hundreds of thousands of the groupís meditation manuals.

On Tuesday, August 3, after Interpol rejected the Chinese request for assistance in detaining Li, the Chinese government offered rewards of $6000 for information leading to the arrest of Li Hongzhi, the founder of the banned Falun Gong movement. The international police organization stated that they could not help find Li because their constitution forbids it from "undertaking any intervention or activities of a political or a religious character." Although Li currently resides in New York City, the United States has no intention of turning him over to Chinese authorities, noting that Washington and Beijing have no extradition treaty.

In addition to the monetary reward for helping to detain Li Hongzhi and launching a huge propaganda campaign against Falun Gong, members of the sect in the United States, Britain and Canada have reported a variety of assaults on their World Wide Web sites. These members accuse Chinese security officials of being behind the harassment. The Chinese government has also launched an anti-Falun Gong web site of their own.

According to the Chinese government, Falun Gong is the most dangerous threat to political stability since the student democracy movement of 1989. There is concern that this recent re-emphasis on Marxist study could work against support for the already unpopular economic changes proposed by Prime Minister Zhu Rongji. In addition, the crackdown is taking place just before the leaders in Beijing will go to Beidaihe for their annual political retreat.

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China Tests New Missile


On Monday, August 2, Beijing announced it had successfully test-launched a new long-range missile. Military experts agree it was probably the Dong Feng-31 Missile, which has been under development for several years. The Dong Feng-31 can carry a 1500-pound nuclear warhead a distance of 5000 miles, capable of reaching the United States. The official New China News Agency, in a one-sentence report, stated that the test was conducted within Chinese territory. Although it provided no additional information, it was unusual for China to issue any such report.

The test-launch came just after the Pentagon carried out an arms sale to Taiwan of weapons worth $550 million, including two E-2T Hawkeye 2000E early-warning aircraft and parts and equipment for F-16 and F-5 fighter planes and C-130 cargo planes. Taiwan already has four Hawkeyes. China reacted strongly to this most recent arms sale, regarding it as a violation of an agreement in 1982 aimed at gradually reducing such sales.

Janeís Defense Weekly reported that China was expected to begin testing the Dong Feng-31 by 2000. This missile was designed to replace the Dong Feng-4, a missile developed in the 1960s with half the range designed to threaten U.S. forces in the Philippines. Janeís also reported that China is expected to build between 10 and 20 Dong Feng 31s for deployment beginning next year, some of them on mobile launchers that are difficult to detect. In June Xinhua news agency reported that a submarine-launched missile, the Julang II, was also scheduled for testing this year. The Julang II is based on technology similar to the Dong Feng-31 and also has a range of approximately 5000 miles. Both missiles were cited in a report by a Congressional committee under the chairmanship of Representative Christopher Cox as weapons that had benefited from American missile and nuclear-warhead technology stolen by China over the course of two decades.

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Chinese Dissident Arrives in United States


Xie Wanjun, a former leader of the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy movement, arrived in New York in the evening of Saturday, July 31. Xie, a dissident from Shandong province, was an organizer in a banned opposition group, the China Democracy Party. In April he fled China to Russia where he was granted refuge by the US Consulate in the Russian Far Eastern port of Vladivostok. The consulate sheltered him for four months until Xie was able to leave on a plane for South Korea, from where he flew on to New York.

The U.S. and China This Week
The U.S. and China This Week

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