Here’s a fascinating story from Caijing about alleged money transfers to terrorist groups through Bank of China accounts:
More than 100 terror victims filed a class action lawsuit August 21 against the Los Angeles branch of Bank of China (BOC) for allowing millions of dollars to be wired by Hamas and the Palestine Islamic Jihad (PIJ). Hamas and PIJ are designated terrorist organizations by the U.S. government, and such wire transfers are a crime under American law…
The plaintiffs allege that beginning in 2003, BOC executed dozens of wire transfers for the Hamas and PIJ totaling several million dollars. These dollar transfers were initiated by PIJ and Hamas leadership in Iran and Syria, were processed through BOC’s branches in the United States, and were sent on to a BOC account operated by a senior operative of the Hamas and PIJ in southern China’s Guangzhou City. If the accusation is true, BOC would have facilitated the funding of terrorist activities.
In 2005, Israel counter-terrorism officers met with officials from the Chinese Ministry of Public Security and BOC regarding these wire transfers. Despite Israeli warnings, BOC persisted in wiring funds for Hamas and PIJ.
If true, this is another example of how China’s “internal affairs” (in this case, corruption and lack of oversight) inevitably become external problems that affect the rest of the world.
This article about Ghanaians in China popped up in my Google news alert yesterday. It contains some letters from Ghanians currently stuck in China, including this one from someone currently in Wuhan:
There are a lot of Ghanaians who are stranded here in China.
Most of them have no food to eat let alone job to do. Especially in Guangzhou many Ghanaians are behind bars for overstaying their visas. . . .
Most of the people here cannot even locate their passport, the reason being either they have been cheated by agents who promise to renew it and could not, so making away with the passport and the money or giving out to a friend to use and could not locate the friend again. . . .
I am writing from Wuhan a province in China. My passport has expired for a year now and I want to go home but I cannot. There is no work for me to do too, I have been hiding here for almost three months without a job.
I have posted before about the experiences of an American black man in China, but I rarely see much about Africans here. The girls at Pizza Buffet! did a podcast about Guangzhou earlier this year, and that was the first time I had heard about the large number of Africans living in Guangzhou, many illegally.
A few weeks ago SHTig and I were discussing immigration to and from China–for the last couple hundred years, there has been a lot of the latter but almost none of the former. Aside from North Korean refugees, the only other people coming to China in search of a better life are the Africans.
A classic moment today at my local McDonald’s: A young girl was eating an early lunch at about 11:30 am with an older guy, probably her grandfather. Gramps wasn’t hungry, but he was definitely thirsty, as he took several large swigs from his bottle of Red Star erguotou (in the classic green flask). He even gave her the drunken finger-point, wagging it in front of her face as he loudly passed along some sage advice. Alas, I didn’t bring my camera.
Merchandising note: The Olympics theme has already been pushed out in favor of a series of ads and toys for Star Wars: The Clone Wars.
From heartbreaking to predictable. The Telegraph (among many others) is reporting yet another Olympic Ceremony faux pas.
It turns out that the 56 children “from” China’s official 56 different minority ethnic groups that brought the Chinese national flag into the stadium were, in fact, all ethnic Hans wearing minority costumes. According to the official guide to the ceremony:
“56 children from 56 Chinese ethnic groups cluster around the Chinese national flag, representing the 56 ethnic groups”
Not so fast. By “from”, they really meant “wearing ethnic costumes”. It’s bad enough that they have to token-ize the ethnic groups with these official uniforms (sorry, costumes), but they didn’t even bother to use children actually from the ethnic groups to represent them. That’s a more benign interpretation. What if they actually considered and then rejected using actual members of the minority ethnic groups?
I guess it was all a bit too perfect. Following the news that the Opening Ceremony footprint fireworks were faked, it is now being reported (also here and here) that the cute little pixie, Lin Miaoke, who sang Ode to the Motherland at the Opening Ceremony was lip-syncing. And it wasn’t as though Lin was lip-syncing her own performance. No, that would at least be defensible. Apparently the girl who actually sang the song, Yang Peiyi, was judged to be too much of an ugly duckling to represent China at the opening ceremony. Chubby with crooked teeth. The horror. Can you believe a first-grader has crooked teeth? What? She doesn’t have a perfect figure? I am aghast.
Judged by whom, you ask? A member of the politburo. Absolute madness.
Faking the footprints – fine. No harm, no foul. If you ask me, they still looked really cool. You can even make the argument that it was safer to fake them rather than release fireworks in every neighborhood directly south of the Bird’s Nest.
What’s the argument here? According to one idiot, the musical director of the ceremony, it was done “in the national interest” and “considering the overseas image” of China. Please, tell me, someone, what is the national interest in this boneheaded move? Also, it really burns me that they’re trying to pin this one on foreigners, even indirectly.
What about the singer that “won the heart of a nation“? Shortly after the ceremony, Lin Miaoke’s father Lin Hui had said “it is too early for Miaoke to be part of the world of entertainment.”
I have a feeling we don’t have to worry about that now.
UPDATE: The New York Times has picked up the story.
UPDATE #2: Even Dlisted is covering the story.
The rest of the country continues to sacrifice for Beijing’s Olympic party. Yesterday SHTig and I visited one of the nicest (and largest) office towers in Beijing. The entire building was frigid–on a Sunday, when perhaps a few dozen people were inside. Meanwhile, Bloomberg reports on electricity rationing in Wuhan:
The provincial government decided to cut power supplies to the capital city of Wuhan by 34 percent, the city of Huangshi by 31 percent and Huanggang by 16 percent, the local economic commission said in a statement posted on its Web site.
China, facing its sixth year of electricity shortages, mothballed 3 percent of its coal-fired generating capacity as of July 25 after fuel supplies dwindled, State Grid Corp. of China said last week. Coal stockpiles at Hubei’s power plants have fallen below the “caution line” of 750,000 metric tons, the provincial government said.
“Insufficient coal supplies forced the closure of an increasing number of power plants in the province,” the commission said. “We decided to start rationing power supplies from Aug. 5 in order to ensure basic power demand for the summer and Olympics are met.”
Unfortunately for Wuhan and the rest of China, the current shortage is not being caused by the Olympics alone, but is rather part of a much greater problem:
State Grid said last week 46 percent of the power stations on its network have coal stockpiles below the “caution line” or seven days of consumption. More than 1 billion people rely on State Grid for their power.
The Three Gorges hydropower station in Hubei had a daily output of 440 million kilowatt-hours yesterday [August 5 or 6], or 5 percent of the nation’s total consumption, the Xinhua News Agency reported today.
Just took this photo with my cell phone on the way to lunch.
A London black cab with Beijing
NATOR ADDS: China Car Times had some info on this back in May.
ODB ADDS: I know Israel was also testing these cabs out a few years ago, as they are supposed to be more secure with the driver being in a separate compartment from the passengers.
There was one pretty cool shot during the opening ceremonies last Friday that looked like it had been filmed from a helicopter flying from the Forbidden City straight north up Beijing’s central axis to the Olympic Village, then sped up to give a 10-second aerial view of the city’s skyline. I remember thinking 1) I had never seen such a shot for Beijing before, and 2) it looked computer generated, which would seem to be a lot more trouble than just doing it the old-fashioned way.
A story in the Telegraph explains that part of what I watched was faked:
As the ceremony got under way with a dramatic, drummed countdown, viewers watching at home and on giant screens inside the Bird’s Nest National Stadium watched as a series of giant footprints outlined in fireworks processed gloriously above the city from Tiananmen Square.
What they did not realise was that what they were watching was in fact computer graphics, meticulously created over a period of months and inserted into the coverage electronically at exactly the right moment.
The fireworks were there for real, outside the stadium. But those responsible for filming the extravaganza decided in advance it would be impossible to capture all 29 footprints from the air.
As a result, only the last, visible from the camera stands inside the Bird’s Nest was captured on film…
Gao Xiaolong, head of the visual effects team for the ceremony, said it had taken almost a year to create the 55-second sequence. Meticulous efforts were made to ensure the sequence was as unnoticeable as possible: they sought advice from the Beijing meteorological office as to how to recreate the hazy effects of Beijing’s smog at night, and inserted a slight camera shake effect to simulate the idea that it was filmed from a helicopter.
I’m not actually sure if this was the same moment I noticed; what I saw (or thought I saw) was a computer-generated aerial view of much of Beijing’s skyline (i.e. the buildings and roads looked faked). I understand the logic behind the decision to go with computer-generated effects and don’t have a problem with it. Regardless, it is interesting to note the attitude and motivations behind this decision.
A lot of the lazier reporting on China portrays the country as a place where the government controls every facet of life. While the government may try to do so, China more often feels like a place out of control than under control. At no time is this more apparent than during Chinese New Year, when fireworks are going off all around and the city looks and sounds like a war zone. The contrast between that happy chaos and the nervousness surrounding the Olympics is striking.
ODB ADDS: Funny. As I was watching the ceremony and the firework part, I was thinking to myself: “These fireworks should be going off right over my head… but I can’t see or hear anything…”.
It seems Ha’aretz, Israel’s leading newspaper, shares some of our views on the opening ceremony. Here are a few excerpts:
I should have been excited, but I wasn’t. I sat a few dozen meters from the track at Beijing’s Bird’s Nest Stadium and was one of the 91,000 lucky individuals who had tickets for the opening ceremony of the 29th Olympic Games, an event that dozens of millions of Chinese and many other millions around the world would have loved to attend.
Still, from where I sat, the ceremony looked soulless. No doubt, the production was grandiose and the ceremony rich in color, but it was somewhat schematic and mechanical, even a touch militaristic.
Note: In the original Hebrew article (which was much better), the words “maybe even fascist” appeared after the word militaristic.
In my opinion there were two emotional moments that stood out. The first was when giant Chinese basketball player Yao Ming walked alongside a little Chinese boy who barely reached his knees. The second was when members of the Spanish delegation started to dance while circling the stadium, ignoring the pleas of Chinese organizers that they complete their round.
Yimou was quoted in the ceremony’s program as saying his aim was to put together a happy event. Going by Friday’s final product, he failed.
As reported by The Jerusalem Post, an Iranian swimmer refused to race in the fourth heat of the 100 meter breaststroke alongside an Israeli swimmer.
“This isn’t the first time this has happened and it doesn’t surprise me anymore,” Olympic Committee of Israel General Secretary Efraim Zinger told The Jerusalem Post.
“My heart goes out to the Iranian athletes. In the Athens Olympics one of their sportsmen, who was a gold medal favorite, had to pull out because he was drawn against an Israeli.”
“There’s no place for this kind of behavior in the Olympic movement and it’s a shame it continues.”
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