Friday, January 30, 2015

The shadowy Mr. Xiao

The meeting with the Karmapa did not go so well
The BBC News’ Shanghai correspondent has just reported about ‘China's super-rich communist Buddhists’, in which there is a footage of an audience given by the Dalai Lama to Xiao Wunan, a shadowy Chinese character.
I had mentioned Xiao on this blog in October 2012.
I then wrote:
According to the website of the Asia Pacific Exchange and Cooperation Foundation (APECF), a delegation from this Hong Kong based organization ‘visited India and Nepal upon invitation’.
The [organization] website gave some details: "During the visit in India, APECF delegation went to Dharamsala and visited the 17th Karmapa, both parties had a pleasant talk about the issue of bilateral religious and cultural exchange."
The APECF webmaster has forgotten to mention that Xiao Wunan, a senior CCP cadre and executive vice-president of APECF also met with the Dalai Lama and Dr Lobsang Sangay, the elected Tibetan leader.
Why to only mention Karmapa?
The Chinese leadership probably wanted to keep the encounter with the Tibetan leaders as informal and low-key as possible.
None of the Tibetan websites reported the event which is an important one.
It appears that the meeting with the Karmapa did not go well and the young lama eventually walked out. It is not know what exactly happened.
A year earlier, I had already mentioned Xiao Wunan in connection with the so-called Lumbini project:
The Economist recently reported that China plans to invest $3 billion in Lumbini, the birthplace of the Buddha. The Economist explained: “After Prachanda, the leader of Nepal’s Maoists, stepped down as prime minister in 2009, he several times met representatives of The Asia Pacific Exchange and Co-operation Foundation (APECF). In July Chinese media reported that the Hong-Kong-based foundation—which is widely thought to have China’s backing—had signed an agreement with UNIDO, the UN’s industrial-development organisation, to invest $3 billion in Lumbini.” The objective is to make a ‘Mecca for Buddhists’. The Economist said that the news caused an uproar in Nepal as neither the central government nor the local authorities responsible for Lumbini were consulted. Later the Nepalese government refused to entertain the deal. “If this was an exercise in Chinese ‘soft power; it was a disaster’, The Economist commented.
Despite the 'uproar', Xiao Wunan stayed a week in Nepal.
The APECF website says: "From August 14th to 22nd, the Executive Vice Chairman of APECF Mr. Xiao Wunan, the Deputy Secretary General Ms. Gong Tingyu and Ms. Ge Chen, etc and representatives from China Railway 21st Bureau and China Potevio Group visited this area mentioned above, and had extensive exchanges with all parties in the aspect of bilateral and multilateral religious and cultural exchange and the further implementation of Lumbini Recovery Plan, and obtained fruitful results."
The Lumbini project is certainly not shelved as: "During the visit in Nepal, APECF delegation visited Mr. Parmanand Jha, the Vice President of Nepal, Mr. Prachanda, the President of Lumbini Development National Directive Committee, Mr. Posta Bahadur Bogati, the Minister for Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation, Mr. Hridesh Tripathi, the Minister for Physical Planning, and Mr. Kamal Thapa, the Minister for Telecommunications."
And Mr Xiao wants also to help Nalanda!
About the encounter between the Dalai Lama and Xiao, posing as an emissary of Xi Jinping, I then concluded: “Anyhow, it is an extremely interesting development."
I thought that it could have been a small step forward.
At that time I was not aware of some other facets of Mr. Xiao's character.
The recent BBC reportage raises some serious issues.
Who is really Xiao?
Who are his sponsors in Beijing?
Why is Xiao suddenly back on the Buddhist stage?
How did Xiao Wunan get the footage of his audience with the Dalai Lama?
Why has he decided to make it public now?
Why has he not ‘released’ footages of his interviews with the Karmapa and Lobsang Sangye, the Tibetan Prime Minister?
It is difficult to answer these questions.
By the way, when he met the Dalai Lama, Xiao Wunan was accompanied by Simon Kei Shek Ming (alias Ji Shiming), a Hong Kong journalist who later interviewed Prof. Jin Wei of the Central Communist Party School. The latter suggested that Beijing should invite the Dalai Lama to visit Hong Kong.
If Xiao is a Chinese emissary, a messenger, there is no doubt that some of his visits abroad are related with the fact that Beijing has tried to project a 'soft' image of a Middle Kingdom, which could become the leader of the Buddhist world.
Yes, Beijing would like to be Marxist and Buddhist at the same time!
Already in July 2011, The China Daily had announced a plan to raise US $ 3 billion to turn Lumbini, Buddha's birthplace in Nepal into a Mecca for Buddhists: “a Hong Kong-based transnational foundation signed a memorandum with a United Nations agency that promotes industrialization in developing countries. The United Nations Industrial Development Organization will rely on its Beijing-based investment and technology promotion office for China to offer technical support for the project in Lumbini, Nepal.”
This then, it appears to have been shelved, at least temporarily.
But from where this money would have come from?
From the cash box of the Party?
The Chinese publication then affirmed: “As part of the project, the Asia Pacific Exchange and Cooperation Foundation has promised to bring roads, communication equipment, water and electricity to Lumbini, a poverty-stricken United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization World Heritage site that attracts about half a million visitors a year.”
Isn't it amazing?
Who is this APECF?
The China Daily says that the board is composed amongst others of Steven Clark Rockefeller Jr.; Jack Rosen, chairman of the American Jewish Congress; Leon H. Charney, a real estate tycoon and former US presidential adviser; Prachanda, leader of the Unified Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist); and Paras, the former Nepali crown prince known for his excesses.
In 2011, Xiao Wunan, executive vice-chairman of the foundation had explained that the Lumbini project will help "transcend religion, ideology and race" and rejuvenate the culture and spirit of Buddhism. …Buddhist dignitaries from around the world, including those from the Mahayana, Hinayana and Tibetan schools of Buddhism, have expressed enthusiasm about the plans.”
There is little doubt that some Chinese officials, with the help of Xiao Wunan would like China to take the lead in the world Buddhist movement.
In October 2014, I wrote about the Conference of the World Fellowship of Buddhists (WFB) held in China.
Xinhua then reported: “Hundreds of the world's Buddhists gathered at an ancient temple in northwest China's Shaanxi Province to open the World Fellowship of Buddhists' 27th general conference. Congregating around a relic said to contain one of the Buddha's finger bones at the Famen Temple in Baoji City, more than 600 representatives from 30 nations and regions were in attendance.”
It was the first time that the three-day event, organized by the Bangkok-headquartered WFB, met on the Chinese soil (from October 16 to 18).
Xinhua also said: “Buddhist leaders at the opening ceremony included the 11th Panchen Lama, Bainqen Erdini Qoigyijabu [Gyaltsen Norbu], and Nichiyu Mochida, chief abbot of Japan's Sogen-ji Temple.”
Dr Kalinga Seneviratne, who attended the WFB on behalf of the German Dharmadutta Society delegation from Sri Lanka, commented on the impressive display of Chinese Buddhist culture and hospitality.

Xiao with Admiral Rogel, Chief of the Naval Staff (France)
Around the same time, Xiao Wunan was in France.
A Chinese publication reported: “A dinner to celebrate the Sino-French "SeaOrbiter" was hosted by the Institut de France - the Jacques Rougerie Foundation and co-sponsored by the Asia Pacific Exchange & Cooperation Foundation. It was held in French navy headquarter on the evening of October 16. Admiral Bernard Rogel, chief of staff of the French Navy, Mr. Jacques Rougerie, initiator of the 'SeaOrbiter' project and Chairman of the Jacques Rougerie Foundation, Mr. Xiao Wunan, Executive Chairman of APECF, Mr. Li Shaoping, Cultural Counsellor of the Chinese Embassy in France, and other distinguished guests attended the dinner. In March this year, during the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to France, the Institut de France - the Jacques Rougerie Foundation and APECF signed a memorandum of understanding on the SeaOrbiter–China Project in Paris. They plan to build the world's first 'SeaOrbiter' in the South China Sea.”
I did not know that SeaOrbiter was a Sino-French project!!
In a speech in August, the eclectic Mr. Xiao had explained that China's State Council “officially listed the SeaOrbiter as one of ten major scientific and technological projects and praised this cooperation from a national strategic perspective. ...China hopes this project will turn it into a maritime power and assume more responsibility exploring our oceans.”
Xiao Wunan is indeed very versatile.
A month earlier, he visited Tel Aviv at the invitation of Israel's Labor Party. His website says: “During the visit, they exchanged ideas with Israel's Labor Party, the Prime Minister's Office, think tanks, the national bank and other institutions and achieved fruitful results.
He met Isaac Herzog, Chairman of Israel's Labor Party who gave him an autobiography of his father (the former president of Israel).
Xiao Wunan has a particularity: he likes to be photographed with important persons. One can understand, as he probably has to report to Beijing about the huge amounts of money he lavishly spends when he moves around.
Bizarre Affair!
Later, he was spotted in the United States.
As one of the characters in the BBC reportage admits, today in China, one becomes Buddhism to get richer.
It looks like the case of Mr. Xiao. It is true that to get rich in China was till recently relatively easy (with or without Buddha's help).
The question remains: who are Xiao's sponsors?
Some rumours have linked an APECF's Vice-Chairman with Zhou Yongkang, the demoted former member of the Politburo's Standing Committee. Is Mr Xiao's money coming from in oil, gas, media, hospitality and communications?
It is up to Wang Qishan and his Central Commission for Discipline Inspection to find out.
But presently, Xiao Wunan is doing well ...till his karma catches up with him!

No comments: