Diplomatic Briefing

Your exclusive news aggregator handpicked daily!

Archive for China

Newsline: Chinese embassy in Paris finds woman who ‘cheated’ Coronavirus checks

The Chinese embassy in Paris has tracked down a woman from Wuhan who said she took tablets to pass airport health checks. The woman boasted on social media that she had been suffering from a fever, but managed to reduce her symptoms with medicine. She later posted pictures showing herself dining at what she claimed was a Michelin-starred restaurant in Lyon. (https://www.bbc.com/news/world-asia-china-51231593) The embassy has now confirmed that her symptoms are under control. The woman left Wuhan – where the new coronavirus emerged late last year – before flights were suspended, but when thermal scanning was in place.

Newsline: Sweden summons Chinese ambassador over criticism of country and media

Sweden’s foreign ministry has summoned the Chinese ambassador for talks over his repeated criticism of the Scandinavian nation and alleged intimidation of the Swedish media. Relations between Sweden and China have been strained for several years over Beijing’s detention of Chinese-born Swedish citizen Gui Minhai, who published gossipy titles about Chinese political leaders out of a Hong Kong book shop. A foreign ministry spokeswoman on Tuesday refused to disclose the specific issues that would be raised. Chinese ambassador Gui Congyou in November threatened “counter-measures” after the culture minister awarded a Swedish rights prize to Gui Minhai. Two business delegations to Stockholm were subsequently cancelled. In an interview at the weekend on Swedish television SVT, he said of Sweden’s critical media coverage of China: “It’s like a 48-kilo lightweight boxer picking a fight with an 86-kilo heavyweight boxer, and the 86-kilo boxer out of courtesy and goodwill tells the 48-kilo boxer to mind his own business.” (https://www.hongkongfp.com/2020/01/22/sweden-summons-chinese-ambassador-criticism-country-media/) “But the lightweight boxer doesn’t listen, he continues to provoke and forces himself into the heavyweight boxer’s home. What choice does then this 86-kilo boxer have?” Swedish Foreign Minister Ann Linde told SVT the ambassador’s remarks were “an unacceptable threat”.

Newsline: U.S. accuses Russia, China of blocking U.N. statement on Baghdad embassy attack

The United States accused Russia and China on Monday of blocking a U.N. Security Council statement underscoring the inviolability of diplomatic and consular premises after a Dec. 31 attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Such statements by the 15-member Security Council have to be agreed on by consensus. The U.S. mission to the United Nations said 27 countries spoke out against the attack on the Baghdad embassy “in stark contrast to the United Nations Security Council’s silence due to two permanent members – Russia and China – not allowing a statement to proceed.” (https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-security-un-usa/us-accuses-russia-china-of-blocking-un-statement-on-baghdad-embassy-attack-idUSKBN1Z51I5) The U.N. ambassadors of Russia and China both dismissed the U.S. accusation on Monday, saying they condemn any attacks on diplomatic premises around the world. Militiamen and their supporters protesting deadly U.S. air strikes on Iraq hurled stones and torched a security post at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad on Dec. 31. U.S. President Donald Trump blamed Iran for “orchestrating” the attack on the embassy. On Friday, Iran’s most prominent general, Qassem Soleimani, was killed in a U.S. drone strike on his convoy at Baghdad airport, an attack that carried U.S.-Iranian hostilities into uncharted waters. Russia and China said any statement by the U.N. Security Council on the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad should also include the latest developments.

Newsline: New details on US diplomat’s mysterious brain injury linked to ‘sonic attacks’

Doctors shared details about what happened to the brain of one diplomat who may be a victim of the so-called sonic attacks that have impacted dozens of people in Cuba and China. Researchers revealed the results of an independent brain analysis of Mark Lenzi, a US diplomat who was stationed in Guangzhou, China, in 2017 when he started experiencing unexplained symptoms including headache, difficulty reading, irritability, as well as memory and sleep problems. (https://edition.cnn.com/2019/12/19/health/sonic-attack-brain-study/) Among the MRI findings: 20 brain regions with “abnormally low” volumes, including regions involved in memory, emotional regulation and motor skills that may correlate with Lenzi’s symptoms, doctors said. Of the 107 regions they looked at, they also found three that had bigger volumes. They said the parts of the brain with low volume may reflect brain injury, and those with high volumes could be evidence that other parts of his brain have compensated. These tests, however, do not reveal the cause. That remains a mystery. The “sonic attacks,” as they have come to be called, are first known to have befallen US government personnel in Havana, Cuba, starting in late 2016. The US State Department announced last year it was looking into similar events in China, expanding a health alert there. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo described the medical details in both locations as “very similar and entirely consistent” with each other. A study published in July also found brain variations among 40 US government personnel affected by the events in Cuba, when compared to 48 healthy adults. The variations included some measures of volume and relationships among different brain regions. However, the authors of the earlier study noted that the clinical importance of the findings was uncertain, and they didn’t have earlier MRIs of the patients to compare with what their brains looked like before the incidents. Moreover, these patterns didn’t fit a clear picture of a specific disorder, according to the authors.

Newsline: U.S. Expelled Two Chinese Embassy Officials Suspected of Espionage

The U.S. quietly expelled two Chinese Embassy officials on suspicions of espionage after they improperly drove onto a sensitive U.S. military facility in Virginia in September, two U.S. officials familiar with the matter said. The expulsion of the officials, whose names couldn’t be learned, took place as President Trump was trying to reach a broad trade agreement with China, and while he was under pressure to take a more forceful stance backing student protesters in Hong Kong. Neither side has publicly acknowledged the incident, which was earlier reported by the New York Times. It is believed to be the first time the U.S. has expelled Chinese diplomats for suspected espionage in more than 30 years. (https://www.wsj.com/articles/u-s-expelled-two-chinese-embassy-officials-suspected-of-espionage-11576454053) The incident in September occurred at a sensitive installation in the Norfolk, Va., area, those familiar with the episode said. The two officials from the Chinese Embassy in Washington tried to gain access to the base but were turned away, one U.S. official said. Nonetheless, they drove about a mile onto the base before they were stopped and detained, U.S. officials said. The Times reported that the group, which included the officials’ wives, attempted to evade military personnel who pursued them and stopped only after firetrucks blocked their way. The Chinese officials then claimed they hadn’t understood the guards’ English instructions. It isn’t clear which U.S. military installation was breached. The Norfolk area has numerous military sites, including several that house Special Operations forces, including Navy SEALs. The activity by the Chinese officials seems an unlikely way to gather secret intelligence. Rather, it may have been a way to test the base’s security, or to send a psychological signal to the Americans that Beijing intends to become more aggressive in its espionage.

Newsline: Former Swedish Ambassador to China to Stand Trial

Sweden’s former ambassador to China will stand trial for diplomatic misconduct after she tried to make a deal with Beijing leading to the release of Hong Kong-based bookseller Gui Minhai, who is currently detained in China. The decision came a day after hundreds of thousands of protesters once more flooded the streets of Hong Kong in a peaceful protest on Dec. 8 against the erosion of their traditional freedoms under Chinese rule, and to mark Human Rights Day, six months after the pro-democracy movement began. Anna Lindstedt has been charged by Swedish prosecutors with “arbitrariness during negotiations with a foreign power,” specifically linked to a meeting during which she was “in contact with persons representing the interests of the Chinese State.” (https://www.rfa.org/english/news/china/trial-12102019125314.html) Sweden’s foreign ministry recalled Lindstedt in February after she was accused of holding a meeting with Angela Gui, Gui’s daughter, without official authorization.

Newsline: China’s island builder has US embassy in Manila surrounded

China Harbour Engineering has clinched a contract for a $1 billion land reclamation project to extend SM Prime Holdings’ Mall of Asia complex in the Manila area, with construction greenlighted to begin next year. The company is among a group of Chinese construction businesses working on at least five separate land reclamation projects in Manila Bay that will in effect leave the U.S. government’s bayside embassy in the Philippine capital surrounded by reclaimed land. (https://asia.nikkei.com/Business/Construction/China-s-island-builder-has-US-embassy-in-Manila-surrounded) China Harbour will partner with Dutch company Royal Boskalis Westminster for the 360-hectare project, according to Alexander Pomento, vice president for investor relations at SM Prime Holdings, the Philippines’ largest real estate company by market value.