The Next Round of the Great Game

Originally published by The Moscow Times, 11 May 2010

By Richard Lourie

The April uprising in Kyrgyzstan illuminates the latest phase of the Great Game.

The game’s initial phase ran fr om 1807, when Napoleon proposed to Tsar Alexander to invade British India, until 1907, when tsarist Russia and imperial Britain sat down and — like civilized Europeans — divided spheres of interest, some of which ran right through countries like Iran.

For Britain, the Great Game had primarily been about securing the jewel of the imperial crown — India — fr om Russian encroachment. For Russia, eastward expansion was a form of Manifest Destiny that wouldn’t be satisfied until the mountains of Asia were under its control and the shores of the Pacific were reached.

There was another flare-up of the game during World War I when Kaiser Wilhelm tried to instigate a Muslim jihad against Russia and Britain, a process that Punch, the British humor magazine, termed “Deutschland Uber Allah.”

Soviet control of the area seemed to terminate the contest, but as Peter Hopkirk, who quite literally wrote the book on the subject (“The Great Game”), says, Central Asia is a “volatile area wh ere the Great Game has never really ceased.”

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Obama Administration Prepares for China Human Rights Dialogue

Originally published by Voice of America, 10 May 2010

By David Gollust

U.S. and Chinese officials convene in Washington later this week for a new round of what has been a sporadic bilateral human rights dialogue.  Some U.S. human rights advocates are skeptical about the dialogue process. 

The United States and China are resuming the human rights dialogue for the first time in two years, with the State Department meetings seen as another sign relations are stabilizing after months of tensions.

Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Michael Posner, will lead the U.S team in meetings Thursday and Friday.  China’s delegation will be headed by Foreign Affairs Ministry Director-General for International Organizations, Chen Xu.

The meeting was first scheduled for February but was postponed amid Chinese anger over new U.S. arms sales to Taiwan and President Obama’s meeting with exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

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Xinjiang leader says security to underpin policies

Originally published by The Associated Press, 10 May 2010

By Christopher Bodeen

 BEIJING, China – Beijing faces a “severe, complex, and intense” fight against separatism in the riot-torn western region of Xinjiang, the new regional leader was quoted Monday as saying.

Stability in the restive region remains fragile, 10 months after ethnic riots in the capital of Urumqi left nearly 200 people dead, Zhang Chunxian was quoted as telling paramilitary police over the weekend.

“The struggle between separatism and counter-separatism in Xinjiang is severe, complex, and intense,” said Zhang, Xinjiang’s Communist Party secretary and most powerful official. “We must be clear-headed at all times and never let down our guard.”

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Taking On Guantánamo

Originally published by Connecticut Law Tribune, 10 May 2010


 Elizabeth Gilson endured ‘bumpy ride’ in battle for brothers’ release

New Haven attorney Elizabeth P. Gilson didn’t know what she was getting into.

In 2005, she had read newspaper reports about lawyers traveling to the detention camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, to help prisoners the government suspected of being enemy combatants. Lawyers were trying to file habeas petitions on behalf of prisoners to find out why they were incarcerated.

Gilson was a solo attorney with an environmental practice, but she was incensed to hear that the government was denying prisoners a hearing. So she jumped to action with the help of the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York, which coordinates legal representation for detainees.

What she got into was “a bumpy but interesting ride” studying constitutional law, helping Guantánamo prisoners and making many friends through a long ordeal.

“We got to work on heady stuff about habeas law and its history,” Gilson said of her work with fellow lawyers. “It came alive. Our cases put pressure on the government to get [prisoners] out of there.”

Now five years after starting her legal battle, Gilson has successfully wrapped up her representation of two brothers who are Turkic Muslims from China.

Bahtiyar Mahnut, 34, and Arkin Mahmud, 45, have been living in Switzerland since March after Gilson helped convince officials there to grant the brothers asylum. They couldn’t return to China because of fears they would be persecuted by the Chinese government, which considers them to be dangerous separatists.

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Uighur leader killed in Pakistan: Interior Minister

Originally published by Reuters,7 May 2010

By Emma Graham-Harrison and Lucy Hornby

 BEIJING (Reuters) – Pakistan and China have “broken the back” of the East Turkestan Islamic Movement (ETIM), which China accuses of orchestrating attacks in its restive Xinjiang region, Pakistan’s Interior Minister said in Beijing on Friday.

An alleged leader of the group, about which little is known, has been killed, Rehman Malik said at the end of a visit to discuss security cooperation between the two countries.

China has granted long-standing ally Pakistan a $180 million loan to purchase police equipment, including armored personnel carriers and bullet-proof jackets, Malik told reporters.

“I am happy to inform you that their back is broken, it’s weakened,” Malik said, referring to ETIM.

“We treat ETIM not only as an enemy of China but also as an enemy of Pakistan … Now the other so-called gang leader Haq has been killed recently, I can confirm that.”

Malik appeared to be referring to Abdul Haq, an ETIM leader also known as Memetiming Memeti, who China says took over leadership of ETIM in 2003 after the death in Pakistan of previous leader Hasan Mahsum.

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More China Aid to Cambodia

Originally published by RFA,06 May 2010

PHNOM PENH—China has pledged millions of dollars in new aid to the Cambodian military, just weeks after the United States froze a planned delivery of military trucks to the Southeast Asian country, officials said.

The aid package, announced during talks between Cambodian Premier Hun Sen and Chinese President Hu Jintao alongside the opening of the World Expo in Shanghai, will comprise 257 new military cars, 50,000 uniforms, and 100 million yuan (U.S. $15 million) in aid.

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China journey

Originally published by business-standard, 07 May 2010

By Anurag Viswanath  

Author Xinran’s China Witness is a truly magnificent book straddling fine scholarship and great storytelling. China Witness is an account of people’s lives during China’s Red history (1949-1978). While some have lived to tell the tale, there are stories of people no more, through the eyes of their near and dear ones. The exercise provides an insightful, and valuable, compass to understand the depth and reach of the dramatic socio-political, economic changes of post-socialist China.

The book takes us on a journey through China’s Red history as great grandparents and grandparents of today unfold less-known, forgotten and glossed over vignettes of those Red years, through an account of their lives, struggles and tribulations.

The book is a moving chronicle of those times. It tells the story, the experiences of 11 different individuals (in different provinces of China) from different walks of life, but all uniformly caught in the vortex of socialism. In some ways, the book is almost a reminder of what is and what was, as it alternates between the past and present, and thus helps us view China through the different lenses of socialism and post-socialism.

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China’s Xinjiang to get $1.5 billion boost

Originally published by The Associated Press,05 May 2010


BEIJING — China plans to inject nearly $1.5 billion into a western region that is the site of simmering unrest, boosting its economy in hopes of reducing ethnic tension after riots last year killed nearly 200 people.

Various regions across Xinjiang, including 82 cities and towns, will received investment from 19 provinces and municipalities around China next year to help improve housing, employment and education opportunities under the plan, the state-owned China Daily newspaper reported Wednesday.

The plan aims to increase living standards, build the region into a “well-off society” after 10 years and maintain long-term stability, the newspaper said, citing a report in Oriental Outlook magazine, a publication of the official Xinhua News Agency.

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