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China's global kidnapping campaign may now be reaching inside U.S. borders (foreignpolicy.com)
158 points by libpcap on April 7, 2018 | hide | past | favorite | 54 comments

One of the most negative longterm consequence of the G. W. Bush era is the erosion of high moral ground in human rights.

The US, and consequently the western democracies, lost the ability to genuinely criticize the bad guys for doing bad things like torture or kidnapping. Of course, the situation in China is not comparable to US, but we lost the argument.

I apologise if this sounds a wee bit snippy but I think you need to read some history books to find out what the US and western friends were getting up to prior to Bush Jr's time in office. Here's a couple of suggestions:



Have a look for books on the US's covert (and slightly less covert) activities in Central and South America.

See my reply to mac01021.

You think the US was behaving morally through the 70s, 80s, and 90s?

Of course not, there are several examples of democratically elected governments overthrown and replaced with brutal dictators, Tuskegee, MKUltra, COINTELPRO, Iran Contra, Dark Alliance. But most of these fuckups were illegal - or at least not officially sanctioned. That changed with 9/11 and Operation Iraqi Freedom. Until then the US never publicly sanctioned torture and kidnapping of individuals.

    > most of these fuckups were illegal
    > - or at least not officially
    > sanctioned.
To people outside the US that are the subject of these campaigns this amounts to nothing more than obscure inside baseball.

Unless something like war crime trials are held, or reparations are paid to the relevant countries it doesn't matter in the least for the end result, or for future such operations whether or not these operations were legal or sanctioned. Nobody involved of any significance ever got charged or convicted, and the US certainly didn't help reinstate the governments that had been overthrown.

The only thing that happened post-9/11 was that the official narrative started more closely resembling the realities on the ground.

That is a good point.

As native to one of the countries affected by Manifest destiny, I can assure USA's foreign policy never has had the moral high ground, but it just liked to say it did.

He's just giving you your daily dose of Republican bashing. Remember who the bad guys are.

US cultural echo chamber :/

> One of the most negative longterm consequence of the G. W. Bush era is the erosion of high moral ground in human rights.

One of the most negative longterm consequences is also the fact that HN seems unable to discuss Chinese human rights violations, and instead must derail all such threads into discussions about the US. Almost none of the comments here actually discuss topic of the OP.

> The US, and consequently the western democracies, lost the ability to genuinely criticize the bad guys for doing bad things like torture or kidnapping. Of course, the situation in China is not comparable to US, but we lost the argument.

This is absolutely not true. The US and Western democracies very much have the ability to criticize human rights abuses just with the caveats that 1) one doesn't have to be guiltless to criticize or call out bad behavior, 2) the US is not a unitary political entity [1], and 3) a hypocrite is not wrong, she's merely guilty as well.

[1] let alone the union of US and Western democracies

>The US, and consequently the western democracies

How is that? To me it seems Europe very much has the moral high ground.

In what sense? I'm not American, by the way.

UK took part in the Iraq war. France took part in the Libya campaign. These are the only two European countries with any sort of military. The rest just let the rest of the world act as their defence force.

Europe of course has the unfortunate distinction of being the starting point of both world wars.

Large parts of it didn't just support communist dictatorships but actually were communist dictatorships throughout the 20th century.

Now you have the modern era. Spain is doing bulk arrests of political dissidents who organised a referendum on Catalonian independence. The leader of the so-called "rebellion" is currently under arrest in Germany pending extradition back to Spain on charges of corruption (i.e. due to the spending required to organise the referendum). The EU has collectively refused to comment on the China-esque behaviour being engaged in right inside its own territory.

Oh, and the EU just passed one of its first extra-territorial laws, the GDPR, which claims jurisdiction over every country and company in the world.

And let's not get onto the behaviour towards to the UK ... threatening to ground flights, revoke driving licenses, revoke domain names, trade sanctions designed to force companies to leave the country and so on. Telling the UK to surrender its own territory, and pay nearly a hundred billion euros in return for nothing. Far more aggressive behaviour between supposed allies than can be seen anywhere else in the world right now.

So - what moral high ground?

Allow me to recommended getting yourself properly informed about the Catalonian issue. The issue is certainly not about a referendum being organized, but rather recurrently ignoring both the law and judicial resolutions for years incl. the refusal to allow parents to choose the language in which their kids are taught in school, or fining stores for writing its name in Spanish. Add in the open white supremacist theme and you've got Catalonian nationalism.

But hey, up until a few years ago, countries like France and U.K. were hosts of the bask terrorists and could have sworn for their lives those gentlemen were also freedom fighters. I'm old enough to remember how IRA had a positive image in some parts of the US too.

Whether you like the Catalonian politicians or not is irrelevant to my point. There are really only three questions that matter:

1) Are they violent?

2) Are they supported by the local population?

3) Are they willing to work with the national government?

The answer is clearly yes to all three. That means Spain needs to deal with them politically, by winning votes, not by calling them rebels and traitors and tossing them all in jail as if it were the 1600's.

Go look at the UK for an example of how to do it. Scottish nationalists had their own problematic attributes from the perspective of many English, but the resolution was peaceful, democratic and accepted by both sides.

Spain has utterly failed at this, and the rest of the EU has simply nodded their heads, let them get on with it and indeed is helping them by arresting the Catalonian leaders in preparation for extradition.

In an article on China grabbing political dissidents to bring them back to China for incarceration this is highly relevant to any claim that Europe has a moral high ground.

EU is the largest contributor of foreign aid by far.

EU is the only significant entity taking global warming seriously and acting on it.

EU takes in far more refugees than USA, China, Japan or Australia... combined.

So - that moral high ground.

Up until Sarkozy received several millions $ of illegal financing for the French presidential election from the hands of Gaddafi, and a little later decided to get rid of his former "friend", with his accomplices David Cameron and Barack Obama, and proceeded to destroy the country, assassinate Gaddafi and fuel Islamic chaos, wars, and migrations in the whole of Western and Central Africa.

A hell of a moral high ground if you ask me...

This topic is taken care of by the Justice System at the moment, so this actually counters your point.


Mediapart is the Independant media that broke the story back in 2012, and has been attacked by Sarkozy.


Historically, former members of the government in France haven't ever been jailed. Chirac, Pasqua and others simply received a slap on the wrist, and Sarkozy will probably end the same. I hope, though, that this time Guéant won't get through because the evidence is so overwhelming, but we'll see. All in all, this delineates a clear picture of an extremely corrupt government, but alas still very well protected by state officials and the following governments in the name of "raison d'État".

Mediapart is one of the very few media who isn't owned by plutocrats, most of them happening to be, by no coincidence, Sarkozy's friends (Bolloré invited Sarkozy on his yacht after his election; Dassault is a senator from Sarkozy's party; Drahi is a staunch supporter of Sarkozy; Bouygues is father-in-law of one of Sarkozy's sons; etc). Sarkozy never actually sued Mediapart, because the dossier is absolutely rock-solid. He constantly complains about "undeserved attacks" and "smearing" in his friends' complacent media, but he never actually sued the website.

You have no idea how totally corrupt the French state is nowadays. It's truly terrible. Macron plans are even worse and will make France a true authoritarian state (exactly along the lines of Putin's Russia), by depriving MPs of the minority of almost all of their (very few) legislative rights and powers, opening the possibility of a third mandate for the president, etc.

Europe is not France only.

And France is not Sarkozy only : There has been Hollande since, and now Macron. (Just like you, I hope there will be very serious sanctions against Sarkozy)

Also, Macron is not perfect, but saying "Macron = Poutine" is excessive.

(On the mandates thing : France used to have maximum two 7-years mandates = 14 years max. Even if it gets to three 5-years mandates, that is 15 years max. Nothing revolutionary. If voters want change, they have twice the opportunity to vote for a change. In France, votes are properly counted, nothing like Russia.)

We didn't lose the argument. We didn't even forfeit. What GWB et al did was much, much worse.

We said human rights didn't matter.

Now that might makes right is our nation's policy, it appears that l/3rd of the voters are just fine with that.

> The US, and consequently the western democracies, lost the ability to genuinely criticize the bad guys for doing bad things like torture or kidnapping.

Would such criticism have had an effect otherwise?

Yes, it's very useful for motivating and mobilising people and nations to our cause. A banner to rally under. Now we have nothing besides plain old nationalism.

The article notes a difference between Chinese "kidnappings" and US "extraordinary rendition": it's different to threaten people's families back in China as a tool of coercion to leave vs. physically kidnapping them. However, in both cases the sovereignty of the hosting state is being violated.

I wonder how the US will react to having a competitor in that arena...

There's a mild difference, in that China has been kidnapping people to take them back to China, where they can be coerced mercilessly. Because we have Constitutional protections in the US, we sent people to other countries... where they could be coerced mercilessly.

Given the relatively recent poisonings of travelling North Koreans and former Russian agents, I don't think that China is the first competitor in extra-territorial clandestine human rights violations.

An interesting difference is that extraordinary rendition is an international cooperation against citizens right. Extraordinary rendition is when several governments find it convenient to break their own laws, but don't want to do it themselves, so they scratch someone's back, and someone else scratches their back.

Another difference is that China has kidnapped Chinese nationals, while the US has "rendered" mostly non-US nationals, if I understand correctly.

A lot of bad press for China lately:

* This article on renditions

* IP theft (e.g.: https://www.ip-watch.org/2018/04/04/us-imprisons-chinese-sci...)

* Drug peddling and money laundering (http://www.sacbee.com/news/local/crime/article207911324.html)

* Unfair trade practices and trade war (no link needed for this on HN)

And this only covers what happens outside of China.

Not even lately, as it's a long recurring pattern. Very relevant story:

I was in Cleveland in 1989 at the time of the Tiananmen Square massacre, where 10,000 student protesters were killed [1]. At the time, we know there were many deaths through word of mouth (our Chinese students stayed in touch with friends and family back home) but nobody knew the actual numbers. So we held a local protest to support them, lots of white and Chinese students, in downtown Cleveland. There were Chinese men in sunglasses and trench coats with long-lens cameras taking pictures of everyone present. The Chinese students told us they were government political officers, keeping tabs on them, and they were accustomed to seeing them. They feared retribution on their families back home, and on themselves if they went back home.


PS. When asked, at the time, why a billion people don't stand up, a common reply was "such a people deserve such a government." At the time they were largely agrarian and pre-internet; only people with good information or who had travelled abroad knew how bad they really had it.

not true at all. Old Chinese may hate Chinese government, young Chinese abroad very much support their government. And it is all economics, bad living standard had cause people to have more hatred.

I don't think China considers it as bad press. In fact, anything that shows that China as a strong country is what China want and doing the thing that foreigners approve is a second priority.

For that matter, there are plenty of people in the US that feel news like this about the US is fine because we're "obviously superior", etc. I'm guessing most countries have a large population of their residents that simply accept whatever their country does as their right, somehow.

Almost as bad as Facebook's recent press

Actually, irrelevant. There would be more articles that are critical of China if newspaper publishers weren't paranoid about losing a shot at a payday buyout from a Chinese media firm.

Are you sure? My uninformed guess would be to assume that if you're critical and they can't just shut you down, they'll more likely pay you a reasonable amount to shut up.

Sounds unlikely as that would only incentivise being openly (and vocally) critical.

If you have the resources and the time to invest in a long game, scorched earth strategy is likely going to be more effective.

Wrong. There's negative China articles coming out every day. If you just browse HN you'll find a fair selection of them

The things mentioned are occuring and should be covered in the press globally.

It's called being the new superpower on the block. Welcome to the party of relentless, global, 24/7 criticism, China. It's going to get dramatically worse with each passing year and every action taken (no matter what that is).

If they're already violently annexing territory 4x the size of Texas from half a dozen neighboring nations, imagine what they'll be doing with a $20 trillion economy and $500+ billion in military spending in about a decade. Who's going to restrain their behavior then? My guess is: nobody.

> Who's going to restrain their behavior then? My guess is: nobody.

It is very well possible that the downfall of the Chinese regime will come from the interior. The regime depends on economic growth like an addict on heroin - they need to feed 1.3B people, of which many are transitioning from poverty to middle-class level.

And much of the Western world is nearing saturation with Chinese products (and in addition, the Western economies aren't growing that much as before themselves!) - that explains the Chinese investments across Africa. They're on quite a gamble at the moment... either a modernized Africa will be the new target market so that the Chinese economy can grow or they're screwed. The question is: will Africa get up to speed before the Chinese economy collapses from a lack of growth?

My guess as to who (or what) will restrain their behavior: demographics. China is a dynamic country with a powerful economy, but they also have a enormous demographic time bomb ticking (an aging population and a low birth rate - one that isn't responding that well to relaxing population control laws).

Also, as for violently annexing territory, they are mild-mannered compared to pretty much every other 'young superpower'. It's worth putting this in perspective with the historical behavior of European superpowers as well as the USA and USSR.

A few additional references:

"China: Families of Interpol Targets Harassed", Human Rights Watch https://www.hrw.org/news/2018/01/31/china-families-interpol-...

The story of Guo Wengui "The Chinese Fugitive Living In A $67 Million Manhattan Apartment", Forbes https://www.forbes.com/sites/nathanvardi/2017/05/19/the-chin...

Side Note: Guo Wengui is a weird figure. He's maintained a very public profile since coming to the US. He regularly posts about the Chinese government on YouTube (some might even call them rants). Just a week or so past he filed a lawsuit against Roger Stone for defamation. http://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/roger-stone-sued-for-defam...

Edit: Story from the WSJ about a visit of Chinese state officials to Wengui's apartment. "China’s Pursuit of Fugitive Businessman Guo Wengui Kicks Off Manhattan Caper Worthy of Spy Thriller" https://archive.is/6Utc7

Edit 2: Another story from the Economist https://archive.is/2LSLt "China’s law-enforcers are going global" quote below:

"Since 2016 Interpol has been headed by Meng Hongwei, who is also China’s vice-minister of public security. That year alone China issued 612 red notices. The worry is that China may have misrepresented its reasons for seeking arrests abroad. Miles Kwok, also known as Guo Wengui, a businessman who fled China in 2015, stands accused of bribery. But it was only when he was poised to give an interview last summer in which he had threatened to expose the misdeeds of the ruling elite that China asked Interpol to help secure his arrest. When America refused to send him home, the Chinese government requested a second red notice, accusing Mr Kwok of rape."

> But Lee’s alleged recruitment may have also led Beijing’s operatives to U.S.-based Chinese nationals.

This part is particularly interesting. If China were to start running a campaign of 'extreme pressure' that adds a dimension to the privacy debate around Facebook and government statistics collection.

A powerful counterargument to 'If you've got nothing to hide'.

Kidnapping may be relatively simple to pull off in dirt-poor third-world countries and lawless war zones. But shouldn't it be harder to kidnap targets in an industrialized country with a functioning local police force, effective control of its borders / airspace, and well-organized, well-funded counterintelligence agencies?

Australia is mentioned in this article, big parts of the economy is dependant on the Chinese, it is the main export destination by far, with the stroke of a pen they could ruin entire industries.

Australian governments of any persuasion will happily kowtow over a few people going missing, there's far too much at stake for either to push back against it.

It would be. Luckily for them they're targeting the US.

More dry than the desert.

> But shouldn't it be harder to kidnap targets in an industrialized country with a functioning local police force, effective control of its borders / airspace, and well-organized, well-funded counterintelligence agencies?

Which country has all of the above? I’d argue many (most?) western countries don’t.

Extraordinary rendition[1] Reminds me a lot of that. Just Chinese-style. As well as how the DPRK kidnapped people from Japan[2] and South Korea[3]. One of the abductees from South Korea was a famous director, Shin Sang-ok[4] and his wife. Kim Jong Il hoped he would revitalize northern cinema. It's a fascinating story.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Extraordinary_rendition [2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Korean_abductions_of_Jap... [3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Korean_abductions_of_Sou... [4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shin_Sang-ok

Let's count the number of people assassinated by the Chinese government and the CIA, shall we?

Please don't use HN for national flamewars. They're destructive of the site and off topic here.


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