A New Way to Pay Old Debts

It is difficult to overstate my disdain at the sense of entitlement behind the likes of Sir Fred Overreach – a man so dull that he was reported to have hired an assistant to sift through all the notes to be dispensed at ATMs from the RBS HQ in Gogarburn to ensure they all had his signature – who has now sallied into a consultancy position for RMJM architects which receives Scottish Executive contracts and designed the Parliament building.

Thus, I never would say no to seeing white-collar graft seized upon with ruthlessness.  All the same I feel disquiet at the conviction for bribery and/or industrial espionage of four Rio Tinto mining executives by a Shanghai court. This included a total of 10 years for naturalized Australian citizen, Stern Hu.

I have little doubt that the charges of taking upwards of $1 million in bribes by two privately-run Chinese steel mills for iron ore contracts are accurate, even in face of doubts that the four pleaded guilty simply in the face of almost total certainty of their being convicted. Although the Chinese state demonstrates more honour towards private investment than North Korea, I doubt the involvement of such small privately-run mills which were otherwise compelled to buy from large state-owned mines was coincidental. Just as was the fact that the original arrests in July 2009 came straight after Rio Tinto had rejected a $20 billions investment with Chinalco, one of the largest state-owned mining companies.

Rio Tinto has released a press-statement, including confirmation of the obligatory dismissal of the four executives. If the Chinese state wished for “lessons to be learned”, this has been arguably made highly difficult by proceedings having been held in camera; including the refusal to allow Hu access to Australian diplomats.

Elsewhere in the Chinese judicial system, there has been hope and despair.  Gao Zhisheng, a human rights Christian activist with links to Falung Gong, was detained by Police on 4 February 2009, but now has reportedly contacted his family to confirm he is safe in a Buddhist sanctuary at Wutai mountain in Shanxi.

Despair comes with news of the conviction and gaoling for five years of Tan Zuoren for “incitement to subvert state power”.

Although this relates to public criticism of the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre, he had recently been been investigating sub-standard construction which contributed to the high death toll in the 2008 Sichaun Earthquake.

Tan had received and continues to receive considerable public sympathy; just as did Deng Yujiao, a female hotel worker who was initially charged with the murder of a CCP officer but ultimately walked free after arguing she had acted in self-defense during an attempted sexual assault.

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