Thursday, April 30, 2020

The Wuhan lab mystery deepens

My article The Wuhan lab mystery deepens appeared in Mail Today/DailyO

Here is the link...

President Xi Jinping is being questioned within the Party for his handling of the crisis.
An issue has been coming in the news repeatedly during the last few days; the Institute of Virology of Wuhan. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo urged Beijing to give access to the laboratory for US scientists: "We are asking the Chinese Communist Party to allow experts to get into that virology lab so that we can determine precisely where this virus began," Pompeo told Fox News.

Questions of origin
Asked his opinion about the Covid-19 originating from the lab, US President Donald Trump had earlier said that "it seems to make sense," adding that "it was a matter of active investigation within his administration." After analysing the coronavirus's genome, most experts believe that it was not consciously engineered by humans, but it could be the outcome of a technical negligence in the laboratory in Wuhan. The Washington Post reported that US officials who had visited the Wuhan Institute of Virology "sent diplomatic cables to Washington as early as January 2018 warning about safety and management weaknesses at the lab, and stated that the facility's work on bat coronaviruses created a pandemic risk."
On February 23 this year, The South China Morning Post mentioned that the virus may not have originated from the seafood market. The Hong Kong newspaper quoted a study from Xishuangbanna Tropical Botanical Garden under the Chinese Academy of Sciences. The team, led by Dr Yu Wenbin found that the virus had spread within the Seafood Wholesale Market in Wuhan, however, the study suggested that the virus was introduced from outside the market: "The study concerning whether Huanan market is the only birthplace of SARS-CoV-2 is of great significance for finding its source and determining the intermediate host, so as to control the epidemic and prevent it from spreading again," said the study.
While taking a more balanced stand, French President Emmanuel Macron told The Financial Times that it would 'naïve' to suggest China had dealt better with the crisis, he added, things 'happened that we don't know about'. There are reasons for his moderation; France had in the past been actively involved with the lab. After the SARS hit China in 2003, Jiang Zemin the Chinese President contacted one of his friends, Dr. Chen Zhu, who had been trained at Saint-Louis Hospital in Paris; China needed help to study the viruses.

French partnership
A year later, President Jacques Chirac instructed his Prime Minister, Jean-Pierre Raffarin to work out a Sino-French collaboration with Dr Chen; an accord was sealed in October 2004, and soon the idea of a P4 level laboratory took shape. Designed by French experts and started in 2011, "this cutting-edge tool is a central element in achieving the 2004 intergovernmental agreement to fight against emerging infectious diseases," explained an article in Radio France. At the start, the Wuhan P4 laboratory benefited from the support of the Jean-Mérieux Laboratory in Lyon, considered one of the best.
Many were uncomfortable in France, as China refused to explain what had happened with the P3 biology laboratories that were funded by the Raffarin government after SARS. "The French have been chilled by the lack of transparency of the Chinese," says Antoine Izambard, author of the book Dangerous Liaisons [with Beijing]. According to Radio France: "Fifteen specialized French SMEs lent their support to build the laboratory." In 2015, Alain Mérieux left the co-chairmanship of the Joint Commission supervising the lab. Mérieux explained: "I am giving up the co-chairmanship of P4, a Chinese tool. It belongs to them, even if it was developed with technical assistance from France."

Additional concerns

France still believed collaboration was possible. On February 23, 2017, when Bernard Cazeneuve, then Prime Minister of France inaugurated the 'P4' laboratory in Wuhan, he declared: "France is proud to have contributed to the construction of the first high biological security 'P4' laboratory in China." French Minister of Health Marisol Touraine announced that 50 French researchers would take residency at the P4 in Wuhan for five years and Paris would provide technical expertise, as well as training to improve the laboratory's level of bio-safety; but French researchers could never go. China had what it wanted, the lab. The cooperation between Jean Mérieux Institute in Lyon and Wuhan lab never really started. Alain Mérieux admitted that: "there has been no meeting of the Franco-Chinese committee on infectious diseases." The Chinese lab worked without the outside supervision of foreign experts.
The day Cazeneuve inaugurated the P4 lab, the review Nature published an article on the Wuhan Institute: "Some scientists outside China worry about pathogens escaping, …[giving] a biological dimension to geopolitical tensions between China and other nations." The magazine admitted there were concerns surrounding some of these high tech labs.
Surprisingly in January 2020, a Chinese PLA general took over the Institute in Wuhan. Maj Gen Chen Wei, a researcher at the Military Medical Research Institute of the Academy of Military Sciences, became responsible for the research. The lady general is said to have found the first vaccine against the virus on March 16.
All this raises questions which few will discuss. The stakes are high for Beijing. It doesn't want to appear to be the one who spread the virus, and President Xi Jinping is being questioned within the Party for his handling of the crisis. We shall not know the truth for years.

Tuesday, April 28, 2020

Coronavirus and the Human Species

More than 2,500 years ago, Gautam Buddha preached the Four Noble Truths; suffering or dukh was central to his teachings, but he also found the path that leads to the end of dukh.
The Covid-19, which emanated from Wuhan in China, has bought immense dukh to the human species, and it may not be over.
But while it has been a tragedy for many on the planet, it has also brought sukh, happiness to the rivers, flora, fauna …and even some human beings.
A pertinent query: will we, the humans, learn something from the blow or will everything start again like before?
The confinement has forced many of our species to have better quality relationship with our dear ones, children or parents; something which had been forgotten for years or for certain, had never been known.
The planetary developments of the last few weeks have strangely brought both sukh or dukh, though the post-confinement era may witness hard times for hundreds of millions.
But at present, WhatsApp groups and software like Zoom have become over-popular (in the latter’s case, it was rightly banned by Delhi for Government’s offices, when it was found that some of the traffic was discretely transiting via China).
I personally joined one of these groups with my French family with whom I hardly communicated in normal times. In the course of an exchange, a six-year old nephew was asked if the confinement was not too hard for him; he took no time to answer, “I would like it to last 1000 years.”
For the first time in his life (with the exception of holidays), he had both his parents with him from morning to evening; of course, he had to do some home work, but his teacher was his own mom, what a delight even for home work! And his father was here too to play, watch a cartoon with him and help him to put on a disguise. He will certainly remember all his life the ‘good days’ of the confinement.
It does not mean that there is no hardship around and that to remain stuck in a small flat is pure sukh. It is where the tragedy is so special, it has struck deeply the human species alone, infecting so far more than two and half million human beings and killing nearly two lakh persons. Can humans realize that we are perhaps the most fragile (and the most foolish) species on the planet?
Many other species are doing well, not only the wild species which were once sold on the wet market in Wuhan, which may now survive, but also all these animals seen in viral videos exploring the great empty cities of the humans.
Many rivers are doing well too.
Some scientists noted that the water quality of Ganga has gone through such a change that it is in some cases fit for drinking. It was reported that the Ganga water had become good for Achaman (ritual sipping) in Haridwar.
In both Haridwar and Rishikesh, water quality has seen tremendous improvements with industries closed, people confined at home and no tourists.
The main reason is a 500 percent decrease in total dissolved solids (TDS), industrial effluent, sewage from dharamshalas, hotels and lodges. We had conveniently forgotten that religious tourism pollutes too.
South Asia Network on Dams, Rivers & People, an NGO doing remarkable work on environment, suggested that it may be the way forward for pollution control mechanisms in the country. To do so, studies will have to be undertaken in a number states including Punjab, Uttar Pradesh, Delhi, Maharashtra, Karnataka, among others; the rivers involved include the Sutlej, Buddha Nullah, Cauvery, Ulhas, Waldhuni, besides Ganga and Yamuna.
Another question comes again and again, when the virus is dead and gone, will the human species start again destroying the planet, can men, like the Buddha did more than two millennia ago, men analyze the tragedy and identify what is the cause of dukh and find the way to a greater sukh?
Another small improvement: constant nasty political fights between the Majority and Opposition has somehow get subdued (this is valid for all nations); instead of playing a constructive role to built their nation, the opposition usually plays a shooting game, arguing black when the government says white and vice-versa; on its part, the government is more than often not interested in the opposition, as it has got the Mandate to govern for the next few years. The virus seems to have brought a relative truce and it is a positive development; can one day the only objective of our political leaders be the well-being of the citizens, more particularly the less privileged sections of the species?
Another remark; the Coronavirus seems to be atheist. Several religious congregations thought their respective gods or messiahs were protecting them, it has not been the case; whether in Nizamuddin, which sent the virus spreading throughout India; in Mulhouse, where a religious congregation has been the main hotspot in France; in some Jewish temples in Israel where the priests thought that they were invincible. Many other cases could be cited like a Christian preacher in Louisiana, USA defying rightly worried authorities or those in Pakistan who held a gathering of nearly a quarter of a million in late February, despite warnings of coronavirus; they all became ‘super-spreaders’. Does this mean that the Covid-19 does not like religious extremism or exclusivism? Nobody can answer today, but the fact remains that nobody has been spared.
The ultimate question is: is the human able to become more human?
The time has perhaps come for the human species to think of its past deeds, it is also vital to the future of the planet?
In the meantime, since January the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has engaged in a major propaganda campaign, doing everything it could possibly do to cover up what made coronavirus become a global pandemic.
The CCP Central Propaganda Department is aggressively attempting to avoid getting the blame for what it has done.
But a backlash has already started. Julian Reichel, the editor of the popular German Bild magazine wrote an open letter to President Xi Jinping: “China is known as a surveillance state that infected the world with a deadly disease. That is your political legacy.”
China has to realize that the time is not for aggressiveness, but for introspection; today, the virus has raised the question of the survival of our peculiar species.

Saturday, April 25, 2020

The Panchen Lama reincarnation

Twenty-five years ago, Gedhun Choeki Nyima, the Panchen Lama selcted by the Dalai Lama was arrested by the Chinese.
Since then he has been kept under detention by the People's Republic of China.

I found an old article that I had written on the subject of the Panchen Lama's reincarnation in 1995 for Blitz magazine.
It was a few months after his arrest.
It shows again that the Chinese are planning their moves well in advance, though their justifications are as lame today as they were yesterday.
How can an atheist Government be knowledgeable about something that they don't believe in?
Is it not a highly spiritual matter?
In the meantime, the young reincarnation of the Panchen Lama remains a prisoner in China. This is tragic.

By foisting its own Panchen Lama on Tibet, China commits Sacrilege
December 23, 1995
Does history always repeating itself? One can only hope that it will not in the case of the Panchen Lama. When at the end of 1950, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) troops walked into the Eastern Tibetan province of Kham, a weak and divided Lhasa Government could not put up any resistance to the communist troops: it was the beginning of the “peaceful liberation” of Tibet.

A couple of months later, the Dalai Lama, his government and other officials from the big monasteries, had to flee Lhasa to take refuge at Yatung in the Chumbi Valley where the British had their trade mission, near the Indian border.  Soon the Communist Chinese became keen to officialise their occupation of Tibet by signing an agreement with Lhasa recognising that Tibet had been “peacefully liberated” by the PLA.
The only existing agreement on Tibet at that time was the Simla Agreement signed with Sir Henri McMahon after month­long negotiations in Simla between British, Chinese and Tibetan delegates. In order to erase this agreement at the earliest and to record as a fait-accompli the invasion of Tibet, in April 1951 Mao Zetong summoned Tibetan plenipotentiaries to Beijing to hold negotiations and sign a new agreement with the Chinese Communist government.
Two members of the delegation left Yatung the headquarters of the Dalai Lama and after a short stop over in New Delhi to seek the support of Nehru (which they did not get) proceeded to Beijing where they met the other members who had been brought from the occupied province of Kham. The leader of the delegation, Ngabo Jigme was at that time of the invasion the Governor of Kham and he had been a virtual prisoner of the Communist since October 1950.
The negotiations were scheduled to begin immediately but the Chinese refused to start unless the delegation recognised the new Panchen Lama born in Sining, China and chosen by them. Since 1942, the Tibetans had refused to accept the Chinese candidate as he was only one of the possible choices and he had not gone through any of the usual formal rituals and procedures to recognise an incarnate lama.
A few times, the Nationalist government unilaterally announced that their candidate was the official one and he was even once enthroned by the Chinese at the Kumbum monastery in the Eastern Province of Amdo, but the Chinese Communists (like the Nationalists earlier) knew that without the stamp of Lhasa it would be very difficult to get their choice accepted by the masses, thus their insistence on having their candidate accepted by Lhasa. For more than a month, Ngabo Jigme refused to cede to the Chinese pressure.
But at the end, he was forced to put his seal as he felt that it was the only way to come to the negotiating table.
However thereafter there were no further negotiations: a 17-point “Agreement for the Peaceful Liberation of Tibet” was signed under duress a few days later even though the Tibetan delegates who had objected to many points (in particular to the one referring to the role of the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama and putting them on the same level) were given no choice, but to paragraph the text.
The Dalai Lama and his Government in Yatung were informed much later by telegram of the agreement, when it was already too late. This was the result of an extremely weak Tibetan government dominated by the conservative power of the large monasteries who never had wanted to have contacts with the outside world, the lack of concern shown by great powers like the USA and India (Nehru always believed that China and India should be friends whatever will be the cost) and of a 15-year old Dalai Lama who was far too inexperienced to fight political masters like Mao or Zhou En-lai.
On December 8 1995, history seems to repeat itself once more: a Chinese candidate was imposed by the Communist Party on the Tibetan People and “officially” enthroned in the Tashi Lhunpo monastery in Shigatse, the second largest Tibetan town. The ceremony had been kept secret by the Chinese until the last moment as they feared the backlash of an angry Tibetan population at this unilateral imposition of their candidate.
The candidate, Gyaltsen Norbu had been chosen after a mock “Golden Urn” ceremony had been organised in the Jokhang Cathedral in Lhasa on 29th November by the dignitaries of the Communist Party. The parents of Gyaltsen Norbu are themselves said to be Communist Party members in Lhari. The usual traditional joy expressed by the Tibetan crowds when one of its high incarnate lamas (and specially the Dalai Lama or the Panchen Lama) has come back to our world to continue to fulfil his Bodhisattva vows to return again and again in order to help all sentient beings to be one day liberated from this world of suffering, was absent.
This time curfew was imposed in Shigatse, Lhasa and Chamdo, the three largest cities in Tibet and the boy had to be isolated under protection in one of the estate of the previous Panchen Lama in Shigatse after his arrival from Lhasa on 30th November. The high lamas, officials and monks of the Tashi Lhunpo were informed only on the eve of the event and threatened with dire consequences if they feign ill heath for not attending the enthronement.
The head of Religious Affairs in Beijing, Zhao Puchu had specially come from Beijing to supervise the ceremony and represent the Central government. More than 500 soldiers and members of the Public Security Bureau guarded the entrance of the monastery and screened the selected “invitees”.
The big difference with 1951 is that now the story has come to all the news agencies of the world and the wave of sympathy for the Tibetan Buddhist is widespread. Also this time the Tibetan people are united like never before around their leader: the Dalai Lama and firmly decided not to accept the “divide and rule” policy of Beijing. The fate of the Panchen Lama flashed for the first time in the news in May when on the occasion of the day of Buddha Poornima, the Dalai Lama formally announced that Gedhun Choeki Nyima, a six-year old boy from Lhari district in Tibet was the XIth Panchen Lama. This was the culmination of a long process started soon after the death of the Xth Panchen Lama in his Tashi Lhunpo monastery in 1989.
The Dalai Lama who had been performing different religious and spiritual practices for the past four years in order to recognise without fail the genuine reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, had been in touch with the Chinese-appointed head of the Search Committee, Chatrel Rinpoche who had twice consulted the Lhamoi Lhatso, the Lake of Vision in which signs are always seen to indicate the path to follow to discover the soul of a departed lama. For two years, the divination had indicated that the boy was already born in Tibet, but the time had not yet come to disclose more details. Each time this divination was confirmed by the Nechung, the State Oracle of Tibet and the Tsangpa Oracle who is specifically dealing with the Tashi Lhunpo monastery affairs. In 1994, the Nechung had confirmed that “if the Tibetans are united the incarnation will soon be found in Tibet.” It is only in early 1995, that the Dalai Lama through another divination found out that Gedhun was a “very good” candidate. It was confirmed during the following months and on May 13th, a last divination confirmed that his boy was the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama and that it was now time to announce it to the world. This was done the next day. The Chinese reaction was not long in coming. Infuriated that they had been out played by the Dalai Lama who had announced the name of the boy before them and also by the fact that the Search Committee chosen by them had passed information to Dharamsala without their knowledge, they immediately arrested Chatrel Rinpoche who is since missing and the newly recognised Panchen Lama was brought to Lhasa were he is still under house arrest. One interesting point to note here is that even after years of indoctrination, communist education and re-education, even though Chatrel Rinpoche had been specially chosen for his pro-Chinese sentiments, still at the end of the process he chose to refer the matter for the final choice to the Dalai Lama. It is symptomatic of the immense faith the people of Tibet from the most humble nomad to the greatest abbot keep in their tradition. It certainly reminded the world of the role played by the previous Panchen Lama who was born in China, chosen by the Party, educated by the Communists, “re-educated” in prison for more than 15 years and generally considered for years by Tibetans and Western Tibet watchers as a traitor, but who denounced the forty years of Chinese rule in Tibet in 1989 only four days before his mysterious death and thus becoming a hero for the Tibetans. The worse thing for the Chinese psyche is to publicly loose face, and after the Dalai Lama’s announcement they had definitively lost face (at least in their own eyes). This explains why the matter was taken up at the highest level of the State and Jiang Zemin and Li Peng personally took charge of the case. It was decided that no time should be lost to announce their own candidate. The name of Gedhun Choekyi Choekyi Nyima was immediately deleted from the list of possible candidates while only a few weeks earlier he was for the Chinese one of the very strong contenders for becoming the Eleventh Panchen Lama. For months the Beijing government did its utmost to rope in senior Tibetan lamas and monks to participate in the selection and denounce the Dalai Lama’s choice. Finally, on November 8, Jiang Zemin, the Chinese President received some 75 monks in Beijing. Most of these monks, said to have been hand-picked from Beijing itself, met in a conclave to nominate out of a list of twenty seven names the three candidates whose names would be put in the Golden Urn.  A French journalist reported from Beijing that “at this occasion, the television and the press have given a prominent place to the very unusual “family photo” of Jiang and four other members of the politburo (including the Army Chief Liu Huaquing in uniform) posing with the lamas.” The journalist added: “One could read on the faces of the religious men more reserve than enthusiasm and they did not appear to be as in a hurry as the officials”. The fact that a totalitarian communist regime could start dealing with the search of incarnated souls put a smile on the lips of many, except the Tibetans who were more and more concern about the fate of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima. The question could be asked as to why the Chinese leadership chose to have a confrontation with the Dalai Lama and the people of Tibet at this point of time. A few years back, the Chinese government had for the first time decided to recognise Tulkus (reincarnated lamas), when the head of the Kargyui-pa sect of Buddhism, the 17th Karma-pa was officially recognised by the Communist government. What is worth noting is that the Karma-pa had been discovered by one of his disciples, Situ Rinpoche while conducting the search in Tibet and was subsequently approved by the Dalai Lama after the appropriate tests had been performed. It is only later that the Chinese government “officially appointed” the boy as the 17th Karma-pa and enthroned him in Tsurphu, north of the Lhasa the traditional seat of the Karma-pas. The process could have been the same for the choice of the Panchen Lama as in any case the boy, being born in Tibet, was going to remain “in the hands” of the Chinese government. In the case of the Karma-pa, though he was recognised by the Dalai Lama, the Chinese has completely taken over his education and he is already been used for political purposes.
On May 1st, he was paraded with Jiang on the rostrum of Tiananmen Square on the occasion of the celebration of the Workers Day. More recently he was offered the latest luxurious Toyota by the Party Central Committee. The story of the Panchen Lama could have been similar, but for other reasons the Chinese leadership decided “not to loose face” and show that they were in full control of the situation. The draw from the Golden Urn was an easy and the only way out for the Chinese as it did not require any special religious qualifications to go through. Prof. Samdong Rinpoche, the Chairman of the Tibetan Assembly-in-exile immediately issued a clarification on this procedure which was very rarely used in Tibet.
He quoted for the purpose the previous Panchen Lama who declared in 1988 “according to Tibetan history, the confirmation of either the Dalai or the Panchen Lama must mutually recognised.” This was published in China Reconstructs, an official organ of the Chinese government. Four days before his untimely death in 1989, the Panchen Lama again said: “In the past most of the reincarnates were confirmed by the Father and the Son Aryas (meaning the Dalai Lama and the Panchen Lama).”
Prof. Samdong Rinpoche raised also the question which is in everybody’s mind: “Does the Chinese communist regime believes in the reincarnation theory as practised by Tibetans? If not, then the whole process adopted by them is a mockery of its own philosophy!”
Since many weeks, meetings have been organised in the great monasteries of Tibet to inform the monks that there would be serious consequences if any Tibetan accept the choice of the Dalai Lama.
Another report from Tibet says that the monks from two of the largest monasteries of Sera and Drepung were recently invited for a great prayer ceremony. But soon the monks saw a monk known for his Chinese sentiments distributing offerings followed by a battery of video cameras; they suspected some foul play and that the participation to the ceremony would later be shown as a celebration of the Panchen Lama’s recognition and their acceptance of the Chinese choice, they all walked out of the puja. In October, the Dalai Lama appealed personally to Jiang Zemin: “I am deeply concerned that the whereabouts of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima whom I have recognised as the incarnation of the late Panchen Lama are not known publicly since some time”.
I appeal to you for your government’s recognition to the young Panchen Lama”. The Dalai Lama in his letter further regretted that the proclamation “has further strained our relationship” and he recalled all the efforts he had made in the past years to communicate with and seek assistance of the Chinese government in the search of the reincarnation. “Unfortunately, there has been no response at all from the concerned officials of your government. On the contrary, to my great disappointment the concerned official of your government repeatedly made categorical statements that no involvement on my part will be tolerated... The recognition of the Panchen Lama’s reincarnation is in no way intended to challenge your Excellency’s government”.
The Dalai Lama concluded by another appeal to the Chinese President to seat on a negotiations table “I hold in firm belief that it is possible for us to find a mutually acceptable and beneficial solution on the Tibetan question. With this conviction, I have consistently endeavoured to enter in negotiations with your government any time, any where, keeping in mind the long-term and larger interests of both the Tibetan and the Chinese people”.
The response to the letter was that the Chinese government decided to go ahead with the confrontation approach even at the probable risks of law and order problems, riots, etc… in Tibet. If one observes the situation in China during the last few weeks and tries to read into it, one can see an hardening of the position of the Chinese leadership in three directions: vis-à-vis Tibet, Taiwan and the internal dissidence.
The main reason for this is that Deng Xiao Ping will soon pass away and the struggle for his succession has accentuated over the last months. Jiang Zemin, for the time being the favourite in the succession line has been recently travelling abroad and through his meetings with President Clinton and other heads of state in particular on the occasion of 50th Anniversary of the UN has established himself as a leader with an international stature.
But this does not seem to be enough to make of him the new emperor: he has to assure his basis in China itself and for this he has to remove the three thorns from the Communist government foot. Wei Jingsheng, the most prominent dissident was officially arrested on 21st November on the very serious charges of “engaging in activities to overthrow the government”.
Despite of the protests of many Western countries, scholars and human rights activists, the government declared that Wei was arrested in accordance with the country’s judicial procedure and that “on the contrary, some foreign organisations violated international standard by trying to interfere with the internal affairs of China.” The second case of hardening in the Chinese stand was shown when at the end of November the Xinhua News Agency announced army exercises including amphibious landing.
This was obviously targeted at Taiwan which was on the eve of the legislative polls. The Beijing’s’ TV showed clips proving that the exercises were meant to show that the armed forces were capable of defending the State sovereignty and integrity and safeguarding the unity of the motherland”. Clearly the Chinese government was trying to intimidate the voters to vote against the Kuomintang and the Democratic Progressive Party and give their favours to the pro reunification New Party.
Another compulsion that the future emperor has, is to deal with is the army. The strong feeling amongst the generals of the People’s Liberation Army was shown in a recent interview given by Lt. Gen. Xiong Guangkai an Assistant Chief of Staff to the New York Times. It has been a fact since 1949 that no leader can rule in Beijing without the strong support of the PLA.
The Panchen Lama episode should be seen in the same line. The future leader of China has to show that he has full control over the minorities and specially over the most restive ones: the Tibetans.
Another question in the mind of all the Tibetans and their well-wishers is: is the Panchen Lama’s “recognition” and enthronement a rehearsal for a more important recognition: the Dalai Lama’s. The Chinese always like to create precedents to be able to quote them later as historical tradition. A few weeks back the Beijing Review consecrated four pages in an article to show (with totally distorted historical facts) that the XIVth Dalai Lama had been himself recognised and enthroned by them.
The news that a Chinese spy ring was recently broken in Dharamsala added to the anguish that one day the Tibetans will have to face a succession crisis for their revered leader.
The only hope for the Tibetans now is that they remain united and that democracies like India, the European Community or the USA will take a strong position in favour of the young Panchen Lama.
Already two hundred members of the French Parliament issued an official protest against the Chinese actions and expressed their support for Gedun whom they agreed to sponsor as the youngest prisoner of conscience.
Could not the new Panchen Lama be offered asylum Fang Lizhi and many other dissidents who had to take refuge in the free world after the 1989 pro-democracy movement in China?

Monday, April 13, 2020

Coronavirus: What about the Lab in Wuhan?

My article Coronavirus: What about the Lab in Wuhan? appeared in

Why did the Chinese military take over the lab in Wuhan in end January?
Did something go wrong? Claude Arpi glances at the mystery surrounding the origin of the coronavirus.

China started information warfare to prove to the world that COVID-19, which originated in China, does not have its origin in China.
Zhao Lijian, a spokesperson of the ministry of foreign affairs in Beijing, tweeted that the US army had brought the dreaded virus to Wuhan.
Wang Yi, China's state councilor and foreign minister, phoned his Indian counterpart Dr S Jaishankar that the virus should not be called 'Chinese', as it would stigmatise the country and would be detrimental to 'international cooperation'.
The stakes are high for Beijing: externally, it does not want to appear as the bad guy who spread the virus all over the planet with the drastic consequences seen today (more than 1.7 million affected, more than one lakh casualties, while three billion human beings live under confinement, all this with unpredictable and incalculable economic and social implications), but also internally, where General Secretary Xi Jinping's is more and more questioned within the Chinese Communist arty.

The Real Issue
The objective of Beijing's information warfare exercise is to make the world forget to look for the real origin of the virus, something vital to avoid the recurrence.
Interestingly, a group of Chinese scholars led by Botao Xiao of the South China University of Technology wrote a paper in February for the Natural Science Foundation of China; it dealt with 'The possible origins of 2019-nCoV coronavirus'.
After searching around the seafood market in Wuhan, said to be the epicentre of the outbreak, they identified two laboratories conducting research on bat coronavirus.
The first one, the Wuhan Centre for Disease Control & Prevention is located 280 meters from the market.
The scientists found that 'urgery was performed on the caged animals and the tissue samples were collected for DNA and RNA extraction and sequencing. The tissue samples and contaminated trashes were a source of pathogens.'
It is not proof, but a possibility to be studied fully.
The second laboratory, the Wuhan Institute of Virology of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, is located 15 kilometres from the seafood market.
It was recently in the news when Dr Chen Wei, a lieutenant general in the People's Liberation Army, took over the management.
Xiao and his colleagues concluded: 'Somebody was entangled with the evolution of 2019-nCoV coronavirus. In addition to origins of natural recombination and intermediate host, the killer coronavirus probably originated from a laboratory in Wuhan. Safety level may need to be reinforced in high risk bio-hazardous laboratories.'
'Regulations may be taken to relocate these laboratories far away from the city centre and other densely populated places,' Xiao and his colleagues recommended.
All this means that more serious and independent studies need to be undertaken to find out more about the origin of the 'international' virus.

Continue reading...

Maj Gen Chen Wei with Sun Chunlan, member of the CCC Politburo

Maj Gen Chen Wei

The Lab in Wuhan

The Lab in Wuhan
Inauguration (February 2017)
First injection of the new vaccine to gen Chen Wei
Shi Zhengli, senior scientist working on bats in the lab in Wuhan

Saturday, April 11, 2020

Why China's figures can't be trusted

My article Why China's figures can't be trusted appeared in Mail Today/DailyO

Here is the link...

China could have downplayed its number of confirmed cases 'by a factor of 15 to 40 times'.

A few days ago, Boris Johnson's government was furious with China's handling of the coronavirus; some UK officials even warned that Beijing will face a 'reckoning' once the Covid-19 crisis is over. Mail on Sunday reported that scientists had warned the UK government that China could have downplayed its number of confirmed cases 'by a factor of 15 to 40 times'. At that time, China had reported some 80,000 cases of coronavirus.

Old tricks
While the US national security adviser declared that Washington had no way of knowing if Beijing's figures were accurate, US President Donald Trump said that China's coronavirus statistics seemed "a little bit on the light side".
The President's comments came after a senior Republican lawmaker cast doubt on Beijing's data and Bloomberg News spoke of a classified US intelligence report which concluded that China had under-reported the total cases and casualties due to the virus. Though he had not read the intelligence report, Trump observed: "The numbers seem to be a little bit on the light side - and I am being nice when I say that - relative to what we witnessed and what was reported." He admitted that during his recent phone call with President Xi Jinping, he discussed the spreading of the virus, "but not so much the numbers".
Today, many believe that the Covid-19 is the greatest 'natural' tragedy which has befallen China (and the world) since World War II.
However, one should never forget the Great Leap Forward (GLF), a human-made tragedy which recorded 45 million deaths in the Middle Kingdom.
The Great Famine, which followed the GLF, lasted from 1958 to 1962, and "to this day the ruling Communist Party has not fully acknowledged the degree to which it was a direct result of the forcible herding of villagers into communes under the GLF”, wrote Frank Dikötter, the author of Mao's Great Famine.
In The New York Times op-ed, Dikötter wrote: "Historians have known for some time that the GLF resulted in one of the world's worst famines. Demographers have used official census figures to estimate that 20 million to 30 million people died. …In all, the records I studied suggest that the GLF was responsible for at least 45 million deaths."

History of falsehood
In 1958, Mao Zedong had declared that China would overtake Great Britain in 15 years (later on he changed it into 2 to 3 years); the way to do was by setting up thousands of People's communes; it was to be a disastrous political project.
One of the main reasons for the failure and subsequent tragedy was the forging of the figures. In 1957, the Communist Party started to export excess foodgrain to show off to the world how great the Communist regime was; at the same time the production of grain had been quickly decreasing throughout China, due to Mao's faulty agricultural policies.
But to please the Great Helmsman and the Party, the local satraps kept increasing the figures and announced bumper crops; according to Wikipedia, "In 1960 state granaries would have 50 billion jin [traditional units of measurement] of grain, when they actually contained 12.7 billion jin. …the grain yield in Gansu declined by 4,273,000 tonnes from 1957 to 1961. This series of events resulted in the illusion of superabundance, in which the Party believed that they had an excess amount of grain they could access; but, the Party was also unaware that crop yields were in fact lower than average."

Little transparency
In October 1959, the propaganda magazine China Reconstructs showed farmers with the caption "Celebration of the 1958 bumper harvest at a people's commune in Anhui province." In 1960, other posters read: "The People's commune is good, happiness will last for ten thousand years." Falsifying the figures did not stop. 40 years later, a junior agriculture official lied to Premier Zhu Rongji about some grain harvest figures; then the honest Prime Minister realised how serious the problem of false statistics in China was.
China Youth Daily reported: "Premier Zhu inspected a grain-purchasing station in Nanling county, Anhui province and was delighted to find it full. However, China Central Television revealed that the head of the station had borrowed a substantial amount of grain from other factories ahead of the visit to convince Mr Zhu that he had fulfilled his required purchasing duties." The official had only met half the required purchase quota and had refused to buy more grain. During his tenure, Zhu tried to stop this Chinese 'disease', but never succeeded.
Still, there is no transparency in China. In 2018, Xiang Songzuo, a professor at the Renmin University School of Finance, wrote that China's GDP growth would only be 1.67% and not 6.5% as stated by Beijing. According to Chinascope website, Xiang warned, "Chinese have become addicted to playing with debt and high leverage financing. This is a mirage and will collapse." Ditto for China's Defence Budget, evaluated to be twice the official figure. There is nothing new about the forged figures in Wuhan, where the number of casualties froze after the Emperor's visit on March 10.
The question for the Communist leadership is, can China become a responsible, transparent, modern State, or does Beijing want to continue with the old ways?

Friday, April 10, 2020

Just a ‘small thing’

My article Just a ‘small thing’ appeared in the Edit Page of The Pioneer.
Here is the link...
Despite all the propaganda trotted out by Beijing, some scars may remain for decades, bringing the most drastic changes to China’s image in the world

Moustapha Dahleb, the Chadian doctor and author, gave one of the most touching descriptions of  COVID-19, the pandemic that is presently plaguing the earth. In his blog titled, “Humanity Shaken by a Small Thing (Un Petit Machin)”, he argues, “A small microscopic thing called coronavirus is upsetting the planet. Something invisible has come to make its law. It questions everything and upsets the established order. Everything is put back in place, otherwise, differently.”
Among other collaterals, “the Small Thing” has triggered two wars on a scale not seen since World War II and the subsequent Cold War between the Western and Soviet blocks. The first war is against the “Small Thing” itself as to how to stop its worldwide spread and find a vaccine. China and the US, the world’s two super powers, are competing to win the battle. In China, the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has been working harder than anybody to find a solution. Is it because the PLA was no stranger to the first spread of the virus? It may take years or even decades to know the truth. Meanwhile, as early as January 26, a 54-year-old PLA General, Chen Wei, headed to Wuhan “to fight the epidemic” and take over the civilian Wuhan Institute of Virology (partially funded by France).
Further on March 16, China announced that the lady General had developed a vaccine for the Coronavirus and it had entered the first stage for clinical trials. According to Chinascope, a Chinese website based in the US, it is the first recombinant Coronavirus vaccine (adenovirus vector) approved for clinical trial. Volunteers, organised in three groups with 36 people in each, were given injections; Gen Chen was the first to be injected. The Global Times called Chen “a real pathfinder.” Before taking charge of the Wuhan lab, Chen was associated with the Academy of Military Medical Sciences (AMMS).
It was, however, pointed out that it would have taken at least five months to develop the recombinant vaccine approved today by Beijing. Chinascope explained, “The US has also developed a vaccine in a short period but it was based on a different technology (mRNA technology), which could take about 40 days to do. The traditional recombinant vaccine could provide a permanent cure but the mRNA vaccine is like a flu shot that needs to be done every year.” The question, therefore, is, when did the PLA start developing the vaccine to be able to complete the research in five months? Did China know about the “Small Thing” earlier than announced (end of December)? It’s difficult to answer this question but China will probably win the first war.
The second war triggered by the “Small Thing” is to do with information warfare, though this isn’t new. The US website, War on the Rocks, explained, “Several countries are employing disinformation and messaging campaigns around COVID-19 in a branding effort to ensure they are not blamed for the pandemic in the history books.”
For the Communist Party of China (CPC), it is a question of life and death. War of the Rocks asserted: “As the number of COVID-19 cases in China has reportedly declined, Chinese State-run media and diplomats have waged a disinformation campaign against the US in an attempt to distract from Beijing’s mismanagement of the crisis.”
It cites historical examples from the Soviet era, when the same tactics were used, attempting to bring a new narrative: “The origin of the virus is unknown. It could have come from anywhere in the world. China has been a model in handling the sensitive issue. Beijing can now advise the world how to go about it.”
Zhao Lijian, the spokesperson of the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, started to use vitriolic Twitter attacks against critics of his country. He alleged that the American military was at the origin of the virus. The argument went so far that China’s Ambassador to the US, Cui Tiankai, had to contradict his spokesperson. Cui said that it was “crazy” to spread rumors about the Coronavirus originating from a military laboratory in the US.
China may lose the second war. In a few months or years, the “Small Thing” will have eventually dissolved or disappeared (it has already to a great extent in China if one is to believe the Chinese propaganda) but some scars may remain for decades, bringing the most drastic changes to China’s image in the world.
Take Italy, they trusted Chinese President Xi Jinping and agreed to participate in his Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). As a the result, more than three lakh Chinese came to work in Northern Italy, where the tragedy started. Then the case of Holland; the Dutch Health Ministry announced it had recalled 600,000 face masks from China. Ditto was the case for Spain. Its Government encountered similar problems with testing kits ordered from a Chinese company and withdrew a batch of rapid test kits manufactured by China. Turkey and the Czech Republic also announced that they had found some testing kits, ordered from Chinese companies, were not sufficiently accurate.
Examples could be multiplied. China imported about 2.5 billion healthcare items, including visors, masks, gloves and ventilators from Australia between January 24 and February 29, leaving Australian frontline medical staff without protective equipment when the virus struck that country. Masks and other items have to be bought back at often highly inflated prices.
Critics have also accused Beijing of trying to split the European Union (EU) by shipping equipment to certain nations on more favourable terms than others, while leaving the US, the present epicenter of the pandemic, in the lurch. This scar will remain for a long time despite Beijing’s all-out propaganda. Eventually, Xi will have to answer some hard questions from those in Beijing, who were or are in favour of a softer and more human approach to other nations in difficulty.
But the most valuable lesson of the “Small Thing’s” strike is well described by Moustapha Dahleb: “Suddenly the pollution has dropped, people have started having time, so much time that they don’t even know what to do with it. Parents get to know their children, kids learn to stay with their families, work is no longer a priority, travel and leisure are no longer the norm for a successful life. Suddenly, in silence, we turn around in ourselves and understand the value of the words solidarity and vulnerability. Suddenly we realise that we are all on the same boat, rich and poor.”
Let us hope that the “Small Thing” can bring more humanity to this planet despite the high price paid by all nations.

Thursday, April 9, 2020

The Dawn of Information Warfare

Liberated? Emancipated?
My article The dawn of information warfare appeared in Mail Day./DailyO.

Here is the link...

For 70 years, Chinese propaganda has been mastering the Art of Disinformation. Beijing’s rewriting history of the 1959 Tibetan Uprising is a classic example.

For several years, analysts have been predicting that Information Warfare (IW) would be an important part of any battle of tomorrow.
In 2003, China’s Central Military Commission approved the concept of ‘Three Warfares’, namely: coordinated use of strategic psychological operations; overt and covert media manipulation and legal warfare designed to manipulate perceptions of target audiences abroad. In recent years, Beijing has been intensifying its ‘media manipulation’. It was clear that after losing a battle in Wuhan (for more than two months the Chinese authorities hid the truth about the existence and the severity of the new virus), Beijing decided to counterattack.

Chinese reactions
Zhao Lijian, one of China’s sharpshooters, was appointed as one of the spokesmen of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Zhao, who served earlier as deputy chief of mission in Pakistan, is known for his nasty twitter attacks. Soon Zhao Lijian alleged that the Americans were at the origin of the virus: “It might be US army who brought the epidemic to Wuhan. Be transparent! Make public your data! The US owes us an explanation!” he reportedly said.
The US President was not long to join the fray. He dismissed the criticism that his labelling it the ‘Chinese virus’ was racist. Reuters commented: “Trump’s tougher language marked an escalation in a bitter war of words between the world’s top two economies that has widened to include the global pandemic and media freedoms.” During a White House press conference, after speaking of America’s “war against the Chinese virus,” Trump said, "I don’t know if you’d say China’s to blame. Certainly, we didn’t get an early run on it. It would have been helpful if we had known about it earlier. But it comes from China, and it’s not a question about that - nobody’s questioning that.” A friend of mine who has been lived in Beijing for many years told me once: “Trump is a ‘Chinese’, he speaks like them, he reacts like them.”
A text-book example of China's Art of Disinformation is Beijing’s rewriting the history of the Tibetan Uprising in March 1959. In the photo, the 23-year-old Dalai Lama and his escape party are seen crossing Southern Tibet while being pursued by Chinese military forces. (Photo: AP)
There is probably some truth in this statement; yet the fact is that for 70 years, the Chinese propaganda has been mastering the Art of Disinformation; to make something black look white. One text-book example is Beijing’s rewriting the history of the Tibetan Uprising in March 1959, which resulted in the flight of the Dalai Lama and his refuge in India. Though thousands of Tibetans were killed (even Chinese documents record this fact; just read Jianglin Li’s narration in her Tibet in Agony), China still celebrates every March 28 as the ‘Serfs Emancipation Day’; that day in 1959 the Tibetan opposition was finally crushed; China now trumpets that Communist ‘reforms’ could finally be implemented on the Roof of the World. Chinese propaganda argues that on March 28, 1959, the ‘serfs’ were liberated ...from the Dalai Lama’s hold, i.e. feudalism and theocracy.

Behind rewrites
Few witnessed these tragic events; fortunately for us, Maj SL Chibber, the Indian Consul General was on the spot and day after day, he sent ciphered dispatches to South Block, giving the details of the civil war which was going on in the Tibetan capital, Chibber wrote: “the might of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army, who on 20th March 1959, started an all-out offensive against the ill-organised, ill-equipped, untrained-Tibetans with artillery, mortars, machine guns and all types of automatic weapons, was short-lived.” In eight days, the Tibetans were annihilated. Maj Chibber's conclusions are worth quoting: “The future of Tibet is dark and only a miracle can save Tibet from the clutches of the Chinese Communist Colonialists”.
The Tibetan Government was dissolved and its functions and powers were transferred to a puppet Preparatory Committee for the Tibetan Autonomous Region, “eighteen Tibetan members, labelled-traitors by the Chinese were dismissed and replaced by five Chinese and eleven Tibetans,” noted Chibber.

Constant pattern
Beijing organised rallies to condemn the former Tibetan Government and the Imperialists, blaming the Indian expansionists for interfering in the affairs of Tibet; they also installed Military Control Commissions all over Tibet. Chibber commented: “In brief, the booms of Chinese guns and fire from their weapons, which destroyed buildings including religious places, large scale killing of Tibetans followed by mass arrests, departure of Dalai Lama and high-ranking Tibetan officials from Lhasa shattered the morale of Tibetans and they were left with no other alternative but to bow before the Chinese.” China immediately ran a well-planned disinformation campaign to show that the Tibetans had been ‘emancipated’. Many stark examples of rewriting history could be told, such as the Great Leap Forward, where 40 million died of starvation despite ‘bumper harvests’ announced by the Chinese or the Tiananmen massacre in June 1989, manipulated by Foreign forces.
After January 23, 2020, China did take drastic and efficient measures to contain the virus’s spread but why did they rewrite the history of the last two months? It seems crucial for the regime to win the IW now, to counter their economic rival, the United States and to convince their public at home, when ‘ordinary people’ are so upset with the Party for the way the outbreak of the virus in Wuhan was handled. What was the Communist Party doing during the first two months? The blitzkrieg against the facts is to divert attention; the full-fledged IW began when President Xi Jinping accompanied by Wang Huning, the propaganda boss in the Politburo’s Standing Committee and Ding Xuexiang, director of the Party’s General Office, visited Wuhan on March 10. Propaganda was at the Center stage. Even today, propaganda seems to be the foundation of Communist regimes.

Wednesday, April 1, 2020

China and the Corona Virus

I am posting the links of my recent articles on the Coronavirus and China.

How killer Coronavirus has dented President Xi's mandate
Article in Mail Today/DailyO
February 12, 2020
There is no end in sight to the dreaded epidemic which continues to spread

Turbulent times for Beijing
Article in the Edit Page of The Pioneer
February 14, 2020 
Only history can reveal the source of coronavirus. But the crucial issue facing China today is how the people perceive the communist regime’s response to the disaster 

Whistleblower spurs China push for change
Article in The Asian Age/Deccan Chronicle

February 26, 2020
The announcement of the surge in new cases happened as the Hubei provincial and Wuhan municipal party secretaries were shown the door. 

The art of healing
Article in the Edit Page of The Pioneer 
February 27, 2020 
In times when the Government is talking about oppressed minorities in neighbouring nations, should we be harassing Tibetans who have sided with India even in difficult times? 

China’s Tainted Corona 
Article in the Edit Page of The Pioneer 
March 12 , 2020 
While the contagious phase of COVID-19 may ebb and the communist regime may deny the PLA’s role in the battle, the world may not see it in the same light as before 

China begins Information Warfare
Article in The Asian Age
March 23, 2020 
What China does not seem to understand is that even if she wins a few IW battles, this will not help her to become a respected state 

Tibet gets back to work
Article in the Edit Page of The Pioneer 
March 26, 2020
It’s perplexing that when China is still in lockdown, work has resumed on infrastructure projects in Tibet. India must watch these developments carefully and take necessary measures 

The dawn of information warfare
Article in Mail Today/DailyO
March 30, 2020
For 70 years, Chinese propaganda has been mastering the Art of Disinformation. Beijing’s rewriting history of the 1959 Tibetan Uprising is a classic example.

Can China's Communist Party Survive The Chinese Virus Fallout?
Article in StratNews Global 
March 31, 2020 
Tibet-China watcher Claude Arpi raises the relevant question 

Just a ‘small thing’
Article in the Edit Page of The Pioneer 
April 9, 2020 
Despite all the propaganda trotted out by Beijing, some scars may remain for decades, bringing the most drastic changes to China’s image in the world

Why China's figures can't be trusted
Article in Mail Today/DailyO
April 19, 2020
China could have downplayed its number of confirmed cases 'by a factor of 15 to 40 times'