Monday, April 21, 2008

China's 'Freighter of Death' for Zimbabwe: the An Yue Jiang

Updates for April 24th - 18:44 CET

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer has arrived in South Africa and has forcefully stated the following during a press conference :

Tsvangarai won Zimbabwe election, says U.S. official (CNN, AP)

Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for African Affairs Jendayi Frazer was speaking in South Africa at the start of a visit to increase international pressure on Robert Mugabe's government, AP reported.

"We think in this situation we have a clear victor," she told AP, responding to questions about whether a power-sharing agreement could resolve the election impasse.

"Morgan Tsvangirai won and perhaps outright, at which point you don't need a government of national unity. You have to accept the result.

"There may need to be a political solution, a negotiated solution."

Chinese arms shipment for Zimbabwe being recalled to China

Several news agencies are reporting that the deadly cargo of Chinese-made arms and munitions on board the COSCO freighter 'An Yue Jiang' is being recalled to China ASAP. This is great news (if it can be verified to be really true) and it shows that even the PRC must bow to international pressure when enough pressure is being applied from all corners of the globe.

The New York Times reports that the Zimbabwe-bound ship heads back to China after being refused entry into ports all along the southern Africa coast, while Germany's Spiegel Online (international edition) reports that Germany's federal bank for development aid (KfW) had issued a seizure order against the arms shipment in Durban, South Africa due to the Zimbabwe government's non-payment of an outstanding loan of more than USD $60 million (approx. 40 million Euros). Read the April 22nd article 'Mugabe's Deadly Cargo: German Bank Attempted to Seize Chinese Arms Ship'. reports that representatives from the German development bank KfW Group have since refuted that claim, saying it all was a terrible mistake by one of their 'loose cannon' collection agents based in South Africa. Germany, France, and other EU countries have to be rather careful with the government in Beijing these days according to this report at Speigel Online 'Balancing Tibet and Trade: EU Delegation Faces Difficult Tightrope in China'.

Beijing and PRC Chinese Bloggers Fight Back

China's state-owned news agency Xinhua reports on the An Yue Jiang scandal in the China Daily online 'China arms trade conforms to international laws and international obligations' while Global Voices Online over at Harvard Law School's Berkman Center has a roundup of Chinese bloggers commenting on the shipment of arms to Zimbabwe 'China: Netizens defend Zimbabwe arms sales'. Not much sympathy for democracy and human rights in Zimbabwe from that bunch.

That's all the updates for today folks. Thanks to everyone who did their bit to help stop that shipment of arms and munitions to Ol' Bob.

Original post from April 22nd

O.K., I’ve spent enough time over the past few days raising Hell at other people’s blogs about the Chinese arms shipment to Robert Mugabe and now it’s time to get down to business. How can the global blogger community together with concerned citizens of the world help stop a shipment of deadly Chinese arms and munitions to one of Africa’s most deranged and brutal dictators? Answer: by working together to hold high a Torch of Truth and Justice that can drive back the lies, the naked fear, and the darkness.

The Story about a Chinese Freighter of Death: The An Yue Jiang

Surely by now many of you have heard the news about the shipment of Chinese arms for the regime in Zimbabwe. In the wake of last month’s stolen elections in Zimbabwe Robert Mugabe’s “
all-weather Nr. 1 friends in Beijing” decided that they needed to increase protection of their vast financial and political interests in the southern African country. For some reason the government of China feels that bullets instead of bread and other food staples is what the people of Zimbabwe need, a country where millions of people are facing mass starvation and some have been reduced to killing and eating rats.

About one week ago a rust bucket of a Chinese freighter arrived at the South African sea port of Durban, loaded with seventy-seven tons of munitions and arms for the Zimbabwean Ministry of Defence. The name of the ship: the An Yue Jiang. The freighter is owned and operated by COSCO (China Ocean Shipping Company, Beijing PRC).
Sky News aerial video of the ship of doom. If you live near a container harbor or have travelled along a highway anywhere in the world you will have seen the name COSCO written on the sides of freight containers from China. COSCO, a state-owned Chinese shipping conglomerate, owns more than 600 ocean merchant vessels operating in over 140 countries around the globe.

The shipment of arms and munitions from the People’s Republic of China would have gone unnoticed as so many arms shipments through South Africa to Zimbabwe have done over the last two decades if it were not for an alert and courageous “concerned citizen” and the investigative follow-up by a local editor at South Africa’s
Noseweek magazine, not to be confused with Newsweek magazine. According to statements made by Noseweek editor Martin Welz who obtained a copy of the ship’s cargo manifest, the consignment for the Government of Zimbabwe included the following:

3 million+ rounds of ammunition for Chinese-made AK-47 assault rifles
1500 rocket-propelled grenades (RPG’s)
3500 mortar rounds, mortar tubes
Ejection seats and other spare parts for Chinese-made fighter aircraft

Upon leaking the news about the arms shipment to the South African public and SAPA (SA Press Association) all hell broke loose in Durban and in Pretoria. Quick action by civic organizations such as the
Southern Africa Litigation Centre and the head of South Africa’s powerful trade union SATAWU (South African Transport and Allied Worker’s Union) prevented the offloading and transit shipment of arms and munitions to Zimbabwe. In addition, the International Action Network on Small Arms (IANSA) together with the Open Society Institute and the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa and other regional organizations lodged complaints with the South African Government to prohibit the transport of Chinese arms to Zimbabwe.

Last week, while visiting New York for a special meeting of the UN Security Council, South African President Thabo Mbeki
sunk deeper into controversy over his very poor handling of the crisis in Zimbabwe. Mbeki made the following statements when queried by reporters at the UNSC press briefing of April 16th about the Chinese shipment of arms for Mugabe:

Quote of the Week April 13th–19th:
Thabo Mbeki, President of the Republic of South Africa

Question: Mr President, a shipment of weapons from China en-route to Zimbabwe has been found in a Durban harbour?

Answer: Well, ask the Chinese Ambassador. Durban harbour handles goods for many countries on the continent. If you say there are weapons that have arrived from China in the Durban Harbour, I think you should ask the Chinese. There might be a consignment of coal that is being exported to the Congo or something, it is a port, those weapons would have had nothing to do with South Africa. I really don't know what Zimbabwe imports from China or what China imports from Zimbabwe.

PoliticsWeb (South Africa)
Full Transcript of President Thabo Mbeki’s UNSC press conference April 16, 2007

There you have it. The
Chinese Ambassador to the Republic of South Africa has the lowdown on all shipments of Chinese goods through South Africa to Zimbabwe. The President of South Africa, Thabo Mbeki, doesn’t have a clue about what types of goods transit his country enroute to neighboring landlocked countries. This of course is a damn lie. It is almost a bigger lie than the one reported in The Economist’ article “Crisis (in Zimbabwe)? What crisis?” Mbeki’s reputation as a fair and competent 'point man' for international negotiations to settle the political and humanitarian crisis inside Zimbabwe is in the toilet.

Second Best Quote(s) of the Week April 13th-19th:
Zimbabwe’s Deputy Information Minister Bright Matonga (Zimbabwe’s version of comical Ali) responding to queries from Reuters:

Zimbabwe's deputy information minister, Bright Matonga, said on Friday that no party had the right to stop the shipment.

"Every country has got a right to acquire arms. There is nothing wrong with that. If they are for Zimbabwe, they will definitely come to Zimbabwe," he told South Africa's SAFM radio.

"How they are used, when they are going to be used is none of anybody's business."

For its part, China is trying to prevent the controversy from fuelling criticism over its human rights record and rule in Tibet ahead of hosting the Olympics in August. Violent protests have followed the Olympic torch across the globe.

China's Foreign Ministry said in a short faxed statement to Reuters that it had seen the reports about the ship, but "did not understand the actual situation".

"China and Zimbabwe maintain normal trade relations. What we want to stress is China has always had a prudent and responsible attitude towards arms sales, and one of the most important principles is not to interfere in the internal affairs of other countries," the statement said.

Read more at Reuters India
“Zimbabwe arms ship heads for Angola, Mozambique says” (04/19/08)

If you give a damn about the future of Zimbabwe, speak out forcefully

The Number One Problem at the moment is tracking and locating the position of the COSCO freighter of death, the An Jue Jiang.
The people over at Sokwanele who publish the excellent ‘This is Zimbabwe’ blog have organized a “Stop the An Yue Jiang” global action campaign. Since early this afternoon bloggers and readers from around the world have been leaving comments and advice on how to help stop this deadly arms shipment, including ways to track the freighter as it slinks its way along the southern Africa coastline making sure to stay safely in international waters.

IANSA has begun a petition to collect names and email addresses to do the same, to stop the Chinese freighter An Yue Jiang from delivering weapons to Zimbabwe. Also, as of this morning international trade unions representing dock workers and longshoreman in countries around the globe have begun to join the effort to stop this shipment of bullets for Mugabe, a force of tens-of-thousands of blue collar workers that even the mighty Red Army is afraid to go up against. Longshoreman around the globe teaming up with bloggers? This must be another first in the history of the blogosphere and online social networks.

While the international news media is focused on the Countdown to Beijing and the next stop for the Olympic Farce Relay and worldwide protests against China’s human rights record (and the “I Love China No Matter What” counter- protests), an important and tense drama is playing out on the high seas of the South Atlantic. The regime in Beijing and their partners in African capitals, the bankers and global financial investors and businesspeople, politicians and political partners of the PRC would love for this latest Chinese Arms for Zimbabwe scandal to go away quietly.

Focusing on news about the row over the Olympic Games and the Chinese crackdown on Tibet is fine. Protesting against Beijing’s dubious support for the murderous regime of Omar al-Bashir in Sudan is the correct thing to do. Raising hell about China’s support for the brutal military rulers of Burma re: their crackdowns on innocent monks and civilians in the desperate country is also the right thing to do. Just don’t forget about the people of Zimbabwe who are facing continuing years of misery and brutal, repressive rule by an octogenarian despot who refuses to accept the democratic vote of no confidence delivered by Zimbabwean voters last month under threats and violence.

Hundreds of thousands of Zimbabweans are facing death by starvation and state-sanctioned terror and brutality at the hands of Robert Mugabe’s thugs and goons. China’s ambassadors and diplomatic corps in Africa,
its soldiers and military advisors seen patrolling the streets in Mutare and Chinese soldiers based at undisclosed locations within the country, will simply look on while protecting China’s economic and political interests in Zimbabwe. After all, for the regime in Beijing and for too many of the 750,000 Chinese merchants and workers in Africa today, business is business. It’s a win-win situation for everybody, isn’t it?

Related articles and online resources
Bloggers and independent media at the front

This is Zimbabwe – Sokwanele Civic Action Support Group
Action: Stop the An Yue Jiang from delivering Chinese weapons to Mugabe, 04/21/08
We call them guns, Mugabe calls them ‘campaign materials’, 04/18/08
Chinese soldiers seen in Mutare, 04/16/08
Archived updates on the An Yue Jiang

China Digital Times (independent news and editorials about China)
Chinese troops are on the streets of Zimbabwean city, witness says – 04/19/08
China’s small arms sales to Sudan increased as Darfur violence escalated – 03/13/08
EU Parliament disinvests in Petrochina/CNPC over China’s funding of Sudan regime – 03/16/08
If you build it, they will come (Mozambique) – 03/31/08
China Returns to Africa: A Superpower and a Continent Embrace (book review), 04/19/08

My Heart’s in Accra (Ethan Zuckerman)
Watching, Waiting – 04/18/08
Zimbabwe: the endless endgame – 04/17/08

Global Voices Online
Zimbabwe: Chinese troops in Mutare? – 04/20/08

SW Africa Radio (UK) – the independent voice of Zimbabwe on shortwave radio

Now Public
Mugabe: Chinese Military is a Welcome Ally on the Streets of Zimbabwe, 04/19/08

The Zimbabwean Pundit
Politics of change and change of politics: Zim elections ’08 – 04/11/08

The Word Wright (South Africa)
The China-Zimbabwe Arms Deal: a storm in a teacup or the tip of the iceberg? – 04/19/08

The International Mainstream Media & Press

The New York Times
Zimbabwe Arms Shipped by China Spark an Uproar, 04/19/08

The Mail & Guardian (South Africa)
Ship with Arms for Zimbabwe Leaves Durban after Court Ruling, 04/19/08
Zille: Don’t Give Chinese Arms to Zimbabwe, 04/18/08 (South Africa)
Zimbabwe Generals Meet over Arms Shipment, 04/21/08

The Guardian (UK) – Comment is Free
Mugabe’s Gall is Breathtaking by Guguletho Moyo, 04/18/08
Chinese ship carries arms cargo to Mugabe regime, 04/18/08

The International Herald Tribune
South Africa and Zimbabwe: The Silence of Mbeki – 04/17/08

Zimbabwean Journalists (independent journalists based in the UK)
Union in South Africa Refuses to Offload Zimbabwean Arms, 04/17/08
Zimbabwe buys fighter jets from China, 08/22/06

Times Online (UK)
Dockers refuse to unload China arms shipment for Zimbabwe, 04/18/08

BBC News
Zimbabwe arms ship quits South Africa, 04/19/08

Reuters India
Zimbabwe arms ship heads for Angola, Mozambique says – 04/19/08

The Economist (UK)
Zimbabwe: Crisis? What Crisis? – 04/17/08
Zimbabwe: Africa’s Shame – 04/17/08

Zimbabwe arms ship headed for Angola, 04/19/08
South Africa won’t block Chinese weapons for Zimbabwe, 04/17/08
How Long Will Mugabe Hang On? – 04/03/08

Foundations and organizations and government resources

Forum on China-Africa Cooperation (FOCAC)
Zimbabwe eager to strengthen economic ties with China – 09/28/06

IANSA (International Action Network on Small Arms)
Stop the Zimbabwe Arms Shipment petition
SADC must detain Chinese arms to Zimbabwe, 04/14/08

Open Society Institute –
Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa
Eyes on Zimbabwe special program, Eyes on Zimbabwe blog

The Jamestown Foundation
Zimbabwe: China’s African Ally, 07/05/05

Archived (older) related news articles

PBS Frontline World
Congo: On the trail of an AK-47, China’s Calling Card in Africa, 08/30/07

SW Africa Radio (UK) – the independent voice of Zimbabwe on shortwave radio
(Zimbabwe’s) Purchase of Chinese Fighter Jets Makes Mockery of UN Humanitarian Appeal, 08/30/06

New Zimbabwean
Mugabe spends $200 million on new fighter jets, 11/03/06

The Times Online (UK)
The sumptuous retirement mansion Mugabe has no intention of using, 03/30/05

Sokwanele (Zimbabwe Civil Support organization)
Mugabe and His Cronies Living Large at Expense of the Masses, 09/14/04

The Telegraph (UK)
Mugabe’s new palace in the land of hunger, 08/26/03

Additional resources about the historical maritime figure Admiral Zheng He

This is a story about the great
Ming Dynasty explorer Admiral Zheng He as described so eloquently by the distinguished Chinese scholar Dr. Jin Wu.

The An Yue Jiang is a far cry from the
technological genius of Admiral Zeng He’s treasure ships (PBS Nova video), but then again, China ruled under the Great Ming emperors was a very different place from the China we know today.

UCLA International Institute
Zheng He’s Voyages of Discovery

National Geographic
China’s Great Armada and Admiral Zeng He (July 2005)

PBS Nova –
Sultan’s Lost Treasure (January 2001)

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