Iraq
Iraq pipeline

Crisis-hit Iraq mortgages oil to China

Iraq has won an up-front $2 billion infusion from a state-owned Chinese oil company, as it continues to struggle amid the pandemic-triggered collapse in energy prices. After numerous bids to Iraq’s State Organization for Marketing of Oil (SOMO), the deal was clinched by ZhenHua Oil Co, subsidiary of China North Industries Group Corp (Norinco). The deal marks the first in which Iraq has offered a pre-payment for crude, with oil effectively used as security for a loan. According to Bloomberg, SOMO is to supply some 130,000 barrels a day of crude for five years. Norinco is primarily a defense company, with investments in oil and minerals in several countries. (Photo via Iraqi News Agency)

Central Asia
uighur-women

China-Turkey extradition treaty to target Uighurs

China announced the ratification of an extradition treaty with Turkey that it intends to use,inter alia, to accelerate the return of refugees and Uighur Muslims suspected of “terrorism.” Since the 1950s, Turkey has welcomed Uighurs fleeing persecution in China. Uighurs and Turks have linguistic, cultural and religious ties. Currently, more than 50,000 Uighurs call Turkey home. While the treaty does provide grounds for refusal of extradition on the basis of Turkish citizenship, it is feared by many Uighurs that Chinese persecution will follow them to Turkey. “This extradition treaty will cause worry among Uighurs who have fled China and do not yet have Turkish citizenship,” Dilxat Raxit, spokesman for the Germany-based World Uyghur Congress, told AFP. (Photo of Uighur women in Xinjiang: mikepryan via Wikimedia)

Watching the Shadows

Podcast: Rule of the Strongmen

In Episode 59 of the CounterVortex podcast, Bill Weinberg takes stock of Trump’s evident preparation for a coup d’etat and what could be a culminating moment for the current crisis of American democracy. In the context of this dilemma, he discusses two very timely new books with similar titles that both examine the mechanics by which dictators seize and maintain power: Strongman: The Rise of Five Dictators and the Fall of Democracy by Kenneth C. Davis and Strongmen: Mussolini to the Present by Ruth Ben-Ghiat. Listen on SoundCloud or via Patreon. (Image via Macmillan)

Afghanistan
Badakhshan

Did China plan ‘false flag’ attacks in Afghanistan?

India’s Hindustan Times reports that Afghanistan has busted a conclave of 10 Chinese espionage agents that was supposedly “operating a terror cell” in Kabul. Citing unnamed diplomats and security officials, the account claims the spies were in contact with the Haqqani Network, now the inner core of the Taliban insurgency, and were gathering information on the activities of Uighur militants in Badakhshan province. Badakhshan includes Afghanistan’s eastern “panhandle” that extends to the border with China’s Xinjiang region, and has been named before as a stronghold of Uighur militancy. The account states: “One view within the Afghan security establishment is that the detainees were creating a fake East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM) module in Afghanistan to entrap ETIM operatives in Afghanistan.” ETIM is the supposed Uighur network blamed by Chinese authorities for sporadic armed attacks within the People’s Republic over the past generation, although there is skepticism that it actually exists in any organized sense. (Map via Afghan War Blog)

Oceania
torres strait

Strategic strait at issue in Australia-China rift

Amid trade wars, diplomatic tiffs and propaganda sniping, the ugliness between China and Australia seems set to escalate as Beijing enters an agreement with Papua New Guinea to establish an industrial foothold within the narrow Torres Strait. Radio Australia reports that community leaders in North Queensland, just across the strait from New Guinea, fear that China’s plan to construct the facility will jeopardize border security and threaten the commercial fishing sector. There are also concerns that Beijing will attempt to militarize the outpost, seeking to counterbalance the new US-Australian naval base planned for PNG’s Manus Island. (Map: Torres Strait Regional Authority)

Central Asia
ET-Gulag-Archipelago

ICC prosecutor rejects Uighur genocide complaint

International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutors rejected a complaint filed by exiled Uighurs calling for an investigation of China on charges of genocide and crimes against humanity. The complaint was dismissed on jurisdictional grounds; the People’s Republic of China, like the United States, does not recognize the ICC. But on the question of forcible removal from countries where the ICC does have jurisdiction, the text of the rejection parsed definitions very closely. While acknowledging forced deportations of Uighurs from Tajikistan and Cambodia back to China to face potential internment and persecution, the ICC stated: “Not all conduct which involves the forcible removal of persons from a location necessarily constitutes the crime of forcible transfer or deportation.” (Photo: ETNAM)

East Asia
Teng Biao

Trump co-opts Chinese dissidents —stirring dissent

Chinese-diaspora opponents of the Chinese Communist Party dictatorship who have swallowed the Trumpian enemy-of-my-enemy kool-aid bait a principled dissident who opposes Trump and the CCP alike as an agent of the latter because he will not toe their reactionary line. The dissident in question is legal scholar and exiled democracy activist Teng Biao, who has faced protests at his New Jersey home. The protesters are followers of exiled Chinese billionaire Guo Wengui who now runs conservative GTV Media in a partnership with far-right operative Steve Bannon. Further evidence that there is no more honorable place in this world than to be a dissident among dissidents. (Photo: Princeton Planet)

Central Asia
East Turkistan

ETIM dropped from US ‘terrorist’ list: how real?

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced that he is revoking the “terrorist organization” designation of the supposed “East Turkestan Islamic Movement”—an entity that may not actually exist in any organized sense but has been used to justify China’s mass detention of the Uighurs in Xinjiang region. Reaction has been perfectly predictable. The Washington-based Uighur Human Rights Project called Pompeo’s decision “long overdue” and a “definitive rejection of China’s claims.” It was likewise applauded by the DC-based self-declared East Turkistan Government in Exile. Beijing’s Foreign Ministry accused the US of “backpedaling on international counter-terrorism cooperation,” and expressed China’s “strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition to the US decision.” (Map: East Turkistan National Awakening Movement)

East Asia
LegCo

Opposition lawmakers arrested in Hong Kong

Hong Kong authorities arrested eight opposition politicians in relation to a violent incident during a Legislative Council meeting earlier this year.  Back in May, a clash broke out in the chamber over control of a House Committee meeting. During this incident, a pro-Beijing politician dragged opposition lawmaker Ray Chan to the ground; he suffered a slipped disk as a result. Thus far, no pro-establishment lawmakers have been arrested over the incident—yet Chan is among those now detained. The new arrests have been widely condemned as political. (Image of protest occupation of the LegCo chamber in July 2019 via Wikipedia)

Planet Watch
freeway

Humanity’s affluent 1% drive climate change

The richest one percent of the world’s population are responsible for more than twice as much carbon pollution as the 3.1 billion people who made up the poorest half of humanity during a critical 25-year period of unprecedented emissions growth, according to a new study by the aid group Oxfam. The report, “Confronting Carbon Inequality,” is based on research conducted with the Stockholm Environment Institute and has been released as world leaders prepare to meet at the UN General Assembly to discuss global challenges including the climate crisis. The report assesses the “consumption emissions” of different income groups between 1990 and 2015—the 25 years when humanity doubled the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Tim Gore, head of climate policy at Oxfam and author of the report, said: “The over-consumption of a wealthy minority is fuelling the climate crisis, yet it is poor communities and young people who are paying the price. Such extreme carbon inequality is a direct consequence of our governments’ decades-long pursuit of grossly unequal and carbon-intensive economic growth.” (Photo: malingering via The Source Metro)

Watching the Shadows
Xinjiang

China elected to UN rights council: Orwellian irony

In another one to file under #OrwellWouldShit, the UN General Assembly elected China to the Human Rights Council—despite the country holding some one million Uighur Muslims in concentration camps. The General Assembly also elected Russia, Cuba, Uzbekistan and Pakistan—all similarly accused of human rights violations, if not quite such ambitious ones. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized the election of countries with “abhorrent human rights records.” A week before the General Assembly vote, China’s UN ambassador Zhang Jun read a statement before the body, denouncing the US for “systematic racial discrimination and violence,” which was endorsed by 25 other nations—including Russia, Iran and North Korea. Of course the perverse irony of this is that Pompeo and Zhang are both correct. And therefore neither has any moral credibility to criticize the other. (Photo: Xinjiang Judicial Administration via The Diplomat)

Central Asia
Chamdo

Report: forced labor and relocation in Tibet

A new report by the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China and the Jamestown Foundation, a DC-based policy think-tank, has found evidence of a system of forced displacement and labor in Tibet, mirroring that put in place over the past two years in Xiinjiang. The report, entitled “Xinjiang’s Militarized Vocational Training System Comes to Tibet,” finds that over half a million people received instruction at “military-style” training centers as part of the program in the first seven months of 2020—around 15% of the region’s population. Of this total, almost 50,000 have been transferred to jobs away from their homes within Tibet, and several thousand have been sent to other parts of China. Many end up in low-paid labor, including textile manufacturing, construction and agriculture. Those targeted for the program are designated “rural surplus laborers,” which according to the report usually refers to traditional pastoralists and nomads. (Photo: military-style training of “rural surplus laborers” in the Chamdo region of Tibet, June 2016, via Phayul)