Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Live blog of "Civil Liberties: Learning from China"

The Atlantic Monthly's James Fallows, reflecting on the new Arizona immigration law, wrote:
"...Maybe soon the Chinese State Security apparatus can travel to Arizona and give lectures to local police and sheriffs. They can explain how to avoid going crazy with a new power that so invites abuse. "Civil Liberties: Learning from China" can be the name of the course."
DoF really liked Mr. Fallows' suggestion.   Recognizing that China faces similar threats to the US, including illegal immigration and terrorism, the agency invited Chinese "policing and state security" guru Prof. Xu Wei of Beijing University to Washington D.C. to give a talk.

Following is a live-blog of some highlights from the event at DoF Center on Tuesday evening.

20:00  People are taking their seats.  The front row of the auditorium is occupied by ICE (Immigration and Custom Enforcement) agents,  many of whom brought along their sniffer-dogs.  Sue Ellen, a DoF intern from Dallas, hands out biscuits to the dogs.

20:05 Looks like it may take a while for this thing to get started.  A lot of people are standing in the aisles talking.  You have defense contractors chatting up DHS officials, exchanging business cards.   This is obviously a great networking opportunity for everyone.

20:09 Pastor Thomas, CEO of Prosperity Gospel Ministries, delivers the opening prayer:  "Lord, we are frightened by the prospect of annihilation from terrorists armed with nuclear, biological or chemical weapons.   We tremble in the face of the threat from Iran, hijackers, and Pakistani car bombers...    Lord, we are gathered here tonight because millions of illegal immigrants swarm our towns and cities. Among these illegals are drug traffickers responsible for mass killings in Mexico. From Arizona to Alabama we fear for our jobs and the safety of our families...   Lord, may America's law enforcement agencies find ways to apply whatever lessons about civil liberties our friends from China impart here tonight. Amen."

20:12  Opening statement by DoF Sec. Malcolm P. Stag III.   Sec. Stag apologizes for the inconvenience of the document check at the side entrance to the building, but says "exchanging a few freedoms for greater security" serves to remind the public "what we're up against."

20:20  Introductory remarks by his Excellency the Chinese Ambassador to the United States.  Says that just as Mexico is a friend of the US, North Korea is also a friend of China, but "friendship has its limits."  Introduces Prof. Xu Wei.

20:30   Prof. Xu Wei says China has thousands of years of experience policing its borders.  Today, China's government recognizes the need to achieve "balance" between the civil liberties of the Chinese people and security of the state.  Where the two are in conflict, state security takes precedence.

Prof. Xu Wei talks about scope of China's North Korean immigrant crisis.

China's options for dealing with North Korean illegals:  1) shoot them on sight; 2) arrest, detain, shoot them; 3) arrest, detain, repatriate so North Korea can shoot them.*  None of these options completely satisfactory to Beijing, but third option is "least worst," mainly on account of meddling by NGOs, Western governments, etc. 

20:40  Prof. Wei talks about pros and cons of erecting a national security wall.    Says China can manufacture these structures at low cost.  Lists reasons why any future US-Mexico border wall ought to be manufactured in China.  Points to the fact that China has been building and maintaining border security walls for 2,500 years.  Overhead slide projection shows the Great Wall (photo right).

Prof. Wei introduces audience to Tony Xing, President of Dai Xing Engineering Inc.  Tony tells us that Dai Xing Engineering has been involved in the construction of a security wall between China and North Korea.   Tony points out that federal government's cost estimates of a US-Mexico wall are based on the Israeli case study, and he calls these figures "on the high side." He says Chinese engineering firms could build a high border wall for America at an average cost of only $1.3 million per kilometer (using Mexican labor).  Chinese financing available.

20:50  Prof. Wei:  Because documents easily faked in China and many poor Chinese lack proper documentation, police must use their own judgment and exercise "discretion."

21:00 Q and A session begins.  Sec. Malcolm P. Stag III wants to know whether Prof. Wei thinks Chinese have sufficient fear of immigrants, North Korean or otherwise.

Prof. Wei replies that China's five thousand year history has given the people a sense of cultural superiority.   Koreans borrowed their culture from China.  Hence, North Korean immigrants viewed as undesirable by most Chinese.    Another factor is competition for water, food, resources.  Says resource depletion in Northern China is analogous to resource situation in American Southwest.  Chinese fear prospect of competition with North Korean immigrants for limited resources.

21:10  Shouts from back of room. A protester screams something.   Sounds like "Down with Arizona racism!" or something like that.   The man is wearing a blue polo shirt, gray pants, hiking boots.  An ICE agent's dog starts barking.

Two security guards grab the protester, pin him to the floor while a third security guard tasers the anarchist in the back.  The auditorium erupts in applause. 

Reporters and television cameras follow the security guards as they drag the tasered protester away. On their way out of the room, reporters can be heard shouting questions at the semi-conscious anarchist.

21:20  DoF Sec Malcolm P. Stag III takes the mic and says:  "Incidents like this suggest that not only are  illegal immigrants to be feared, so are the anarchists who support them."   Sec. Stag refers to a Fox News report which depicted violence at an immigration rally in Arizona.

21:25   Question for Prof. Wei concerning Muslim separatist militants in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.   Before responding Prof. Wei confers with the Chinese ambassador.  The Chinese confer with Sec. Stag who then announces that we will need to break off.

21:40 Tea and coffee reception in the lobby of DoF Center hosted by Dai Xing Engineering. They are handing out free t-shirts.
An officer of the Chinese embassy emailed DoF Wednesday to explain that Prof. Wei was misquoted on the blog.  "Referring to illegal North Korean immigrants, Prof. Wei did not mean to say that China's policy was to 'shoot them', what the professor said was 'shoo them' as in 'shoo them away'. Moreover, China has received assures from North Korea that repatriated persons are treated in accordance with their human rights. Prof. Wei struggles with American English pronunciation and regrets any misunderstanding."

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Dr. Rebecca Wolf
Undersecretary for Community and New Media
United States Department of Fear