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Week of December 14, 2000

Week of December 14, 2001

The U.S. and China This Week



DOMESTIC: China Wants Chinese Taliban Returned for Trial

SUMMARY (12/11) - The Chinese government has requested that Chinese captured in Afghanistan who fought alongside the Taliban be returned to China for trial on terrorism charges. It is unclear how many Chinese Muslims, members of the Uighur minority, have trained in Osama bin Laden's terrorist camps and fought alongside the Taliban. "These Uighurs are East Turkestan terrorists," said Zhang Qiyue, a spokeswoman for China's Foreign Ministry. She used the name for China's western Xinjiang province favored by Uighur nationalists. Ms. Zhang reiterated China's claim that there are hundreds of Uighurs in Afghanistan, but academics who study the Uighurs say that is probably an overestimate.

Before the September 11 terrorist atrocities in the United States, China was mostly mute on the subject of politically inspired violence in Xinjiang province. But several days ago, the Xinjiang Daily published a detailed account of acts the government deemed as "terrorism" in Xinjiang over the past decade. Those included explosions, assassinations, arson, poisonings and riots. Included were the murders of seven Chinese from two families last year. The Uighur extremists, who seek independence for Xinjiang province, have also killed some local officials. Now China is trying to portray them as being part of global terrorism. During the U.S. war on terrorism, China has increased surveillance and arrests in Xinjiang, according to human rights groups.

Ms. Zhang said a Chinese delegation would visit Kabul, Afghanistan to see if its former embassy is fit for re-opening. Chinese diplomats left Kabul in 1993 for "security reasons."

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DOMESTIC: AIDS Crisis Brings Protests in Rural China

SUMMARY (12/11) - The spread of AIDS from unclean blood collection has spurred protests in a number of rural areas in China. Even as China hosted an AIDS conference in late November, officials in Suixian County detained poor farmers stricken with AIDS as well as Chinese journalists who wanted to interview them. At the height of the incident, fifty villagers, most of them with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, stood outside the Chengguan township building while the local authorities held 11 HIV positive peasants in the township headquarters and three journalists in a government guest house. A mother of three who has HIV and whose husband died of AIDS declared of local officials, "To them we are like bubbles. They know if they turn away and ignore us, we will soon pop and be gone."

Large numbers of Chinese farmers were infected with HIV when they sold blood plasma in the mid 1990's. Plasma was taken from donated blood and the mixed blood was then reinfused into the donors to prevent anemia. Many times, local officials were involved in the blood collection operations. According to some Chinese AIDS experts, at least one million people have HIV in Henan Province alone. But a top health official in Henan told a reporter in early December that just 1,495 people have HIV in the province. "At present the AIDS disease in our province remains at a low epidemic level," he said.

There have been other instances of conflict between the government and the citizenry over AIDS besides the large Suixian protest. A small number of farmers from Suixian went to Beijing to try to talk to journalists and present a petition during the AIDS conference. They were put in a hospital for "testing" on the day the conference began and only let out when it ended. A crew from Half the Sky, an influential government TV program that focuses on women's issues, interviewed some villagers in Suixian and then were reportedly followed by plainclothes police. When they tried to depart from Suixian, they were allegedly held for two days at a government guest house. Other journalists from smaller newspapers hid from the government as they investigated the AIDS epidemic in Suixian and neighboring Weishi County.

Recently, HIV infected farmers from Chenglao and Wenlou villages have been held in the city of Zhumadian, where they traveled to ask for more help. The government has admitted an AIDS problem in Wenlou and dispensed drugs, but villagers say the drugs do not aid them. At the end of November, eight HIV positive individuals staged a two-day sit-in in Zhumadian's health office, demanding more help. The eight were brought to a detention center and charged with "disturbing order of a government office." Three of the infected individuals served 15-day sentences, during which time they got only bread, soup and gruel for food.

Ominously, a Chinese researcher who has studied the AIDS phenomenon in China says what is happening now is "just the tip of the iceberg." "These were the ones that started earliest, so we're aware of the problem," the researcher said. "In other places, it will break out in a couple of years."

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DOMESTIC: Hong Kong's Unpopular Top Executive Likely to Win Re-Election

SUMMARY (12/13) - Hong Kong's unpopular chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa, will likely be re-elected to a second five-year term and may run unopposed, The Washington Post reported. Tung was expected to announce his candidacy for the top post December 13. Tung does not fare well in public opinion polls and has been criticized for not being able to resuscitate the economy, which has gone into recession twice during Tung's five years in office. Homeowners blame contradictory statements about housing policy for the collapse of residential property values. Pro-democracy advocates criticize Tung for impeding political reforms and compromising the independence of the courts. A comic book making fun of "stupid old Tung" is a best seller.

According to the Hong Kong Transition Project, a public opinion research organization, last month 65 percent of Hong Kong's 6.9 million residents opposed a second term for Tung, up from 56 percent a year ago and 42 percent two years ago. "Any U.S. politician with numbers this bad would be checking their retirement package," said Michael E. DeGolyer, a political scientist at Hong Kong's Baptist University and director of the Project. Other polls have indicated tiny increases in Tung's support over the last few weeks, but none show broad support for the 64-year-old leader among ordinary Hong Kong citizens.

However, Tung has the support of Communist leaders in Beijing. This past week, Jiang Enzhu, director of the Chinese government's liaison office in autonomous Hong Kong, said that, "in my view, Mr. Tung has done his job very well." Hong Kong's chief executive is picked by a group of 800 electors comprised of industrial, commercial and professional groups; religious organizations; members of the legislative council and delegates to the National People's Congress in Beijing. The electors are dominated by business tycoons and groups with close ties to Beijing.

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