It’s not like there’s nothing happening on the Olympic torch front. There are already protests in Australia as the torch heads toward that country: http://www.news.com.au/heralds…
Lin Hatfield Dobbs, a social justice campaigner, has pulled out of the Olympic torch relay in Australia, saying of the torch, “For a lot of people it still carries the meaning of harmony but for an increasing number of the global community watching it’s carrying a lot of meaning around human rights.” link: http://afp.google.com/article/…
And the International Herald-Tribune reports that in Japan, instead of the torch relay starting at the enigmatic Zenkoji Temple, it will begin in a parking lot: http://www.iht.com/articles/ap…
But all of that really pales in comparison to an event happening right now, involving multiple countries, including the United States and China. It includes an act of non-cooperation by trade union workers. A political party has spoken out, expressing fears that its members would become the victims of violence.
And yet we are treated to the same response by the Chinese government, that this event shouldn’t be “politicized”.
But this is no “internal domestic affair” in China. It started last Friday when a Chinese ship, the An Yue Jiang, arrived at a South African harbor. It was carrying weapons which were bound for Zimbabwe. For those unfamiliar with the situation there, Zimbabwe had recent elections where it appeared that President Robert Mugabe’s party lost. After days, there was a recount. The recount was disputed by the opposition party, the Movement for Democratic Change (MDC), which called the recount illegal.
Church leaders have issued a statement asking for help from the international community:
Church leaders in Zimbabwe warned that Robert Mugabe’s opponents were being tortured and murdered in a deliberate campaign that could reach “genocidal” proportions.
Leaders of all denominations called for international intervention to help end the country’s post-election crisis.
They also demanded the immediate announcement of results from the March 29 presidential election that long-time Mugabe is widely believed to have lost.
In a joint statement the leaders said “the nation is in a crisis.”
So, with a disputed election, no clear head of government and discussions of the use of violence against the opposition party, the union workers at the port where the An Yue Jiang was docked refused to unload the ship and aid the transfer of arms to this potential powderkeg.
The Congress of South African Trade Unions issued a statement after the noncooperation by union workers:
“This vessel must return to China with the arms on board, as South Africa cannot be seen to be facilitating the flow of weapons into Zimbabwe at a time where there is a political dispute and a volatile situation,” the union congress said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the An Yue Jiang, unable to unload its cargo in South Africa, apparently set sail for neighboring Angola, which is when US Intelligence Services got involved:
U.S. intelligence agencies are tracking the vessel, the An Yue Jiang, and American diplomats have been instructed to press authorities in at least four nations – South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia and Angola – not to allow it to dock, the officials told The Associated Press. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity in order to discuss delicate diplomatic talks.
The BBC is reporting that the International Transport Workers Federation is calling on all of their workers in Africa to not unload this ship: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/afr…
The MDC was blunt about this arms shipment:
The MDC said in a statement on Tuesday, “Those weapons were not going to be used on mosquitoes, but (were) clearly meant to butcher innocent civilians whose only crime is rejecting dictatorship and voting (for) change.” The statement was carried by South Africa’s SAPA news agency.
But both Mugabe’s party and the Chinese government seem befuddled at all of the hubub and consternation surrounding this shipment of “…three million rounds of ammunition, 1,500 rocket-propelled grenades and 2,500 mortar rounds”:
Zimbabwe’s Justice Minister Patrick Chinamasa said it was their right to defend themselves and buy weapons from any legitimate source.
“I don’t understand all this hullabaloo about a lone ship,” he told reporters.
In Beijing, Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu called the military shipment a normal commercial transaction. She told a regular news conference Tuesday that the contract on the shipment was signed last year and that the shipment was not related to the current internal situation in Zimbabwe. “The issue should not be politicized,” she said.
News agencies are reporting that the ship may head back to China due to lack of a port that will accept its cargo.
Okay, now at this point ya just gotta ask, if a Chinese ship carrying arms in international waters unable to unload its cargo at several ports of call due to a concern by these countries that the weapons are bound for an unstable area with no clear governing authority and reports of violence being used in the aftermath of an election isn’t something that should be openly discussed, what is?
If this isn’t something that the Chinese government deserves some amount of criticism over, what is?
If this were another George W. Bush “mistakes were made” mess-up, my head would be exploding right now.
The call to not “politicize” this event sounds like a plea to the international community to just let Chinese authorities sweep this one under the rug at a time when the world’s attention is focused on this government due to the Olympic games, and the thousands of miles that the Beijing organizers decided the torch needed to travel to get there.
Well, it’s their games and they asked for them. When you shine a spotlight on a country don’t be surprised if it illuminates the dirt in the corners just as much as the fragrant centerpiece on the dining room table.
Please keep all sides of these conflicts in your thoughts, prayers and meditations, and please keep Jamyang Kyi at the forefront of your minds, as there has been no updates regarding her status or whereabouts.
UPDATE Here’s an interesting twist. A German bank has been trying to impound the cargo of the An Yue Jiang to pay off debt owed by the Zimbabwean government…but no one knew it was carrying weapons:
On Thursday, KfW IPEX-Bank obtained an court order in Durban, South Africa, to impound the ship’s Zimbabwean-owned cargo because the Zimbabwean government still owes the German bank about €40 million (US$63 million at current rates), Strumpf said.
“We did not know at any time that the ship was carrying weapons,” Strumpf said. “We would have never accepted weapons.”
In 2006, the bank obtained an arbitration ruling from the International Chamber of Commerce in London, allowing it to impound Zimbabwean property abroad to recover its losses.
“As is common, we then hired an internationally operating company, in this case Commercial Intelligence, to track down Zimbabwean overseas-property for us and impound it,” Strumpf said.
She added that Commercial Intelligence, which obtained the impounding order for the An Yue Jiang on the bank’s behalf, also did not know that the Chinese vessel was carrying weapons.