Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit has obtained exclusive video revealing a huge backlog of goods at China’s biggest export hub that is slowing the supply of medical equipment urgently needed to protect hundreds of thousands of health workers as they fight the global coronavirus pandemic.
One video filmed on April 19 shows long queues of lorries loaded with cargo at Shanghai Pudong International Airport, China’s busiest freight hub, waiting to unload at customs. Other videos reveal chaotic scenes at airport facilities with hundreds of boxes, including medical supplies, piling up in warehouses.
China produces nearly half the world’s supply of protective medical equipment with America and Europe two of its biggest customers.
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An experienced international logistics expert, who has spent months trying to buy and export medical masks, respirators and protective clothing (PPE) for various governments, described the situation as “carnage”.
Speaking anonymously for fear of repercussions for his Chinese staff, the Western shipping agent told Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit: “The degree of bureaucracy that we’ve encountered in almost every area has been horrendous.
“We’ve been able to source high-quality PPE. The challenge is getting it out of China and getting it into the country where it’s required,” the source added.
Exclusive. PPE stockpiles in China. Al Jazeera’s I-Unit has obtained video of medical supplies piling up in warehouses and long queues of lorries waiting to unload at Shanghai airport. We will be bringing you news shortly. First, here is a quick look. pic.twitter.com/kSGjJWxFWK
— Al Jazeera Investigations (@AJIunit) May 1, 2020
The huge backlog of exports at China’s busiest airport is the result of a “perfect storm” of events that have choked the freight system; tougher Chinese export controls in response to international pressure to weed out sub-standard equipment, huge demand for PPE and a severe shortage of cargo planes.
The logistics expert did not blame Chinese officials for tightening the rules but was concerned by the impact. “They impose almost on a daily basis new criteria that exporters need to adhere to, so you are constantly faced with shifting goalposts. You’re just about to load your stuff on the plane then bang – a brand new mandate comes out from the Chinese government, saying, ‘Now we now need these stamps and this paperwork in order to export that type of PPE’.”
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The Chinese government told Al Jazeera, “COVID-19 test kits, face masks, protective gowns, ventilators and infrared thermometers are allowed for export as long as they are compliant with either Chinese or US Food and Drug Administration quality standards.”
The situation is so serious that earlier this month the US State Department asked China to ease their new quality control rules to help break the logjam of goods piling up at export hubs.
As the price of masks and medical clothing spirals so has the cost of air freight, which this procurement specialist said had increased 12-fold since the start of the pandemic.
In some cases, the PPE cargo has to wait behind a mountain of regular consumer goods like TVs, computers and clothing, that has been stuck in China since January when the country started to lock down travel and exports.
At the moment there appears to be no policy to prioritise urgent medical supplies, he told Al Jazeera.
There is another problem facing international hospital procurement teams as they struggle to buy masks, surgical gowns, gloves and COVID-19 test kits.
They find they are competing with businessmen who are offering millions of dollars to buy up the entire production of PPE at Chinese factories to profit from rising prices.
Exclusive: French reform proposal for Lebanon delves into details |NationalTribune.com
Beirut, Lebanon – French President Emmanuel Macron, in a visit to Lebanon, has offered to help provide the crisis-hit nation with vital aid if its politicians make good on long-overdue reforms. Speaking at the palatial French ambassador’s residence in Beirut from where Greater Lebanon was proclaimed by colonial France 100 years ago, Macron said on…
Beirut, Lebanon – French President Emmanuel Macron, in a visit to Lebanon, has offered to help provide the crisis-hit nation with vital aid if its politicians make good on long-overdue reforms.
Speaking at the palatial French ambassador’s residence in Beirut from where Greater Lebanon was proclaimed by colonial France 100 years ago, Macron said on Tuesday he would rally international aid at an October donor conference aimed at rebuilding the capital after a devastating explosion last month and halting the country’s economic demise.
But “we will not give Lebanon a carte-blanche, or a blank check,” he added, noting that everything was conditional on whether the country’s fractious leaders could unite around change.
Even before the August 4 explosion that killed at least 190 people, wounded more than 6,000 and damaged wide swaths of Beirut, Lebanon had been drowning in economic crisis.
Its government was seeking $20bn in financial aid, half from an International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme and the other half from development funds pledged by a host of donor nations at a 2018 donor conference. An additional sum of nearly $5bn is now needed for the reconstruction of Beirut, as well as humanitarian assistance.
Macron said Lebanese leaders had pledged to form a government within 15 days, which must then implement a host of reforms within one to three months.
Before the meetings on Tuesday, the French embassy distributed a “draft programme for the new government”, to the heads of political blocs, which Al Jazeera has obtained.
The French draft proposals get into the nitty-gritty details of public policy in Lebanon, underlining some laws and projects and sidelining others.
Here are the main points:
COVID-19 and the humanitarian situation
The government will prepare and disseminate a coronavirus pandemic control plan “that includes support for the most vulnerable people”.
It will strengthen social safety net programmes for the population.
Aftermath of the Beirut explosion
The government will facilitate the distribution of humanitarian aid – provided by the international community and coordinated by the United Nations – in an “expeditious, transparent and effective manner”.
It will put in place governance mechanisms to allow the disbursal of aid in a “transparent and traceable manner”.
It will begin reconstruction based on a needs assessment by the World Bank, EU and UN that estimated the value of damages caused by the explosion at up to $4.6bn.
The government will rapidly launch tenders for the reconstruction of Beirut’s port according to “neutral” standards.
It will conduct an “impartial and independent investigation” into the port explosion “that enables the full truth to be established regarding the causes of the explosion, with the support of Lebanon’s international partners … within a reasonable timeframe”.
The government will regularly exchange views with civil society regarding its programme and the reforms it entails.
It will immediately resume stalled negotiations with the IMF and rapidly approve measures requested by the lender, including a capital controls law and a “full audit” of the Central Bank’s accounts.
The French proposal also called for the approval of a timetable for working with the IMF within 15 days of the government gaining confidence.
It goes on to propose time limits for sector-specific reforms.
Within one month, the government will:
Appoint officials to the National Electricity Regulatory Authority according to Law 462/2002 “without amendments”, and provide the Authority with the resources to carry out its work.
Launch tenders for gas-fired power plants to plug Lebanon’s massive energy gap.
“Abandon” the controversial Selaata power plant project in its current form. The project is one President Michel Aoun and his Free Patriotic Movement party have insisted on.
Within three months, the government will:
Announce a timetable for raising the price of electricity, “provided that this will first affect the most financially wealthy consumers”.
Within one month:
Parliament should finalise and approve a draft law on capital control that should “immediately be implemented for a period of four years” after it is approved by the IMF.
Governance, judicial and financial regulations
Within one month, the government will:
Hold a meeting to follow up on the 2018 donor conference in which the international community pledged $11bn in soft loans, and launch a website dedicated to following up on projects, financing and related reforms.
Complete judicial, financial and administrative appointments, including members of the Supreme Judicial Council, the Financial Market Supervisory Authority and regulatory bodies in the electricity, telecommunications and civil aviation sectors, “in accordance with transparency and competency-based standards”.
Approve in Parliament a law on the independence of the judiciary.
Launch a study on Lebanon’s public administration by an “independent international institution” such as the World Bank or the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) “with a specialised office”.
Fighting corruption and smuggling
Within one month, the government will:
Appoint members of the National Anti-Corruption Commission and grant it the resources to launch its work.
Launch the track to accede to a 1997 OECD treaty on combating corruption.
Implement customs reforms with immediate effect.
Within three months, the government will:
Establish “control gates” and strengthen oversight at the Beirut and Tripoli ports and at the Beirut airport, as well as at other border crossings.
Public procurement reform
Within one month:
Parliament will prepare, adopt and implement a bill on public procurement reform.
The government will grant the Higher Council for Privatization the human and financial capabilities necessary to carry out its tasks.
Within one month:
Prepare and vote on a “corrective finance bill that explicitly clarifies the status of accounts for the year 2020”.
By the end of the year:
Prepare and approve a “harmonised” budget for the year 2021.
“The government will ensure that new legislative elections are organised within a maximum period of one year.”
“The electoral law will be reformed with the full inclusion of civil society, allowing Parliament to be more representative of the aspirations of civil society.”
At his speech later on Tuesday, however, Macron seemed to walk back his proposal for early polls, saying there was “no consensus” on early elections and that other reforms were the priority.
EXCLUSIVE: Singaporean think tank expert pleads guilty to spying for Beijing
A Singaporean national pleaded guilty Friday to operating as a covert Chinese intelligence agent in the U.S. who recruited an Army officer and State Department and Pentagon officials as unwitting agents. Jun Wei Yeo, also known as Dickson Yeo, wrote for several publications on Chinese affairs. He admitted in a court statement he worked secretly…
A Singaporean national pleaded guilty Friday to operating as a covert Chinese intelligence agent in the U.S. who recruited an Army officer and State Department and Pentagon officials as unwitting agents.
Jun Wei Yeo, also known as Dickson Yeo, wrote for several publications on Chinese affairs. He admitted in a court statement he worked secretly for China’s intelligence service in seeking to recruit U.S. government officials as spies and to supply information to Beijing.
Yeo worked under the direction of Chinese intelligence from 2015 until he was arrested in November, according to prosecutors.
“This case again highlights how [China‘s] intelligence service is operating in our backyard, using proxies to spot and assess American citizens in a wide variety of spaces (aerospace, public policy, defense) to target and groom for theft of our intellectual property and classified national defense information,” said Michael Sherwin, acting U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia.
According to a statement of facts submitted in court, Yeo sought “to obtain valuable non-public information from the United States.”
“Using the internet and various social media sites, Yeo worked to spot and assess Americans with access to valuable non-public information, including U.S. military and government employees with high-level security clearances,” the statement said.
Yeo did not reveal that the reports were for the Chinese government but said they were for “clients in Asia.”
Yeo was a visiting scholar at George Washington University’s Sigur Center for Asian Studies at the Elliott School of international affairs from January 2019 to January 2020.
He also wrote numerous articles for online and print journals, including an article for the journal Breaking Defense in February 2019 headlined “The Middle Kingdom is Dead; Long Live a Global China.”
His LinkedIn page lists his employment as a consultant KWR International Inc. in New York and Singapore. The page said of his work that he is “still bridging North America with Beijing, Tokyo and South East Asia.
The statement said Yeo began working as a Chinese agent in 2015 while a doctoral student at the National University of Singapore during a visit to Beijing for a presentation he made.
“After his presentation, Yeo was recruited by various individuals who claimed to represent PRC-based think tanks,” the statement said.
“These individuals offered Yeo money in exchange for political reports and information. Yeo came to understand that at least four of these individuals were intelligence operatives for the PRC government.”
Yeo was asked to sign a contract with the People’s Liberation Army but continued to work for military intelligence and other spy services.
The case reveals Chinese intelligence operating methods. Yeo, according to investigators, was tasked to obtain non-public information including “scuttlebutt” regarding U.S. foreign and international affairs
During one meeting with Chinese spies, “Yeo was directed to obtain “non-public information about the U.S. Department of Commerce, artificial intelligence, and the ‘trade war’ between China and the United States.”
Information was passed to Chinese intelligence at several locations in China during up to 20 meetings.
“On more than one occasion, Yeo received the exact same tasking from all of his PRCIS contacts, leading Yeo to surmise that there is one central authority in Beijing that disseminates research questions to various components of” Chinese intelligence, the statement said.
Yeo gathered information for his work through the internet and social media to identify and recruit Americans to supply him with information.
He was also ordered by China in 2018 to set up a fake consulting firm and to post job listings for the company as a way to find agents. Some 400 people sent their resumes to him, 90% from “U.S. military and government personnel with security clearances.”
The resumes were sent to Chinese intelligence officers.
He also used an unnamed professional networking website to seek out agents for China.
The networking site then began an automated process to supply more names.
“According to Yeo, the website’s algorithm was relentless,” the statement said. “Yeo checked the professional networking website almost every day to review the new batch of potential contacts suggested to him by the site’s algorithm. Later, Yeo told U.S. law enforcement that it felt almost like an addiction.”
Many of the contacts were recruited to provide information and write reports — all with guidance from Chinese intelligence.
“Yeo successfully recruited multiple U.S. citizens to provide him with information,” the statement said.
Among those recruited was a civilian Air Force employee who worked on F-35B jets and who was in financial trouble, whom Yeo recruited to write reports for money, including information on the impact of Japan’s purchase of U.S. F-35 fighter jets. The U.S. government announced last week that Tokyo is buying more than 100 F-35s in a deal worth $23 billion.
A second person recruited by Yeo through social media was identified only as an Army officer at the Pentagon.
The officer “confided to Yeo that he was traumatized by his military tours in Afghanistan,” the statement said, noting that the officer wrote a report on the impact on China of the pullout of U.S. troops from Afghanistan. He was paid $2,000 for the report to his wife’s bank account.
The Chinese then directed Yeo to try to recruit the officer to provide classified information.
Yeo was arrested before he could make the recruitment pitch to the Army officer.
A third U.S. recruit was identified in the statement as a State Department employee who was described as “dissatisfied at work and was having financial troubles” and worried about his upcoming retirement.
The employee was then paid to write a report on a “then serving member of the U.S. Cabinet.”
The employee “feared that if officials at the Department of State discovered that he provided information to Yeo, it would jeopardize his retirement pension.” The employee was paid $1,000 or $2,000 for the report that did not identify the Cabinet member.
Yeo lived in the Washington area from January to July 2019 and spent time recruiting and assessing potential Chinese agents at organizations such as think tanks, lobbying firms and defense contractors.
Yeo also was directed not to communicate with Chinese intelligence in the United States over concerns his communications would be intercepted by the U.S. government.
One operative “instructed Yeo that, if Yeo must email them from the United States, he should do so from a local coffee shop,” the statement said. A second Chinese intelligence officer told Yeo not to take his phone or notebooks when traveling in the United States.
“This same operative gave Yeo a bank card so that Yeo could pay his American contacts for the information they provided,” the statement said, noting that Beijing spies contacted him through the Chinese encrypted messaging application WeChat, and multiple phones.
Yeo pleaded guilty to one count of acting illegally as an unreported foreign agent.
“Yeo has admitted that he accepted, conducted, and followed through on taskings for [People’s Republic of China Intelligence Service] operatives with a full appreciation of what he was doing,” the statement said.
The statement was signed by Yeo.
Yeo could not be reached for comment. His lawyer, Michelle Peterson, did not return an email seeking comment.
Yeo also worked at the National Institute of Strategic Communication at Beijing University from June 2016 to January 2019, when he went to George Washington University.
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Exclusive: Corruption allegations in Namibian 5G deal with Huawei |NationalTribune.com
A city councillor in Namibia’s capital has alleged she was offered a bribe by a local politician to ensure Chinese tech giant Huawei would win an exclusive contract to build the 5G telecommunication network in Windhoek. Brunhilde Cornelius made the allegations in an affidavit that was filed with police on June 19 and has been obtained…
A city councillor in Namibia’s capital has alleged she was offered a bribe by a local politician to ensure Chinese tech giant Huawei would win an exclusive contract to build the 5G telecommunication network in Windhoek.
Brunhilde Cornelius made the allegations in an affidavit that was filed with police on June 19 and has been obtained by Al Jazeera’s Investigative Unit.
Cornelius, who is also the secretary-general of the opposition Rally for Democracy and Progress Party (RDP), alleged the bribe was offered by Nicanor Ndjoze, a fellow RDP member who is the party’s director of elections.
Ndjoze was allegedly working on behalf of his nephew, Reckliff Kandjiriomuini, otherwise known as “Minge”, the head of the ICT division of the City of Windhoek (COW).
The allegations come months after Namibia was rocked by several corruption scandals sparked by the so-called the Fishrot files, revelations that saw two government ministers – the former Minister of Justice Sacky Shanghala and the former Minister of Fisheries Bernhard Esau – resign after a joint investigation by Al Jazeera, WikiLeaks and Icelandic media.
Shanghala and Esau have been in detention since late November 2019, pending trials for corruption, money laundering and fraud.
Huawei’s 5G network
In the affidavit, Cornelius claims that Ndjoze referred to a 40 million NAD ($2.4m) slush fund available for potential beneficiaries of the deal that would give Huawei exclusive rights to develop the infrastructure for a 5G telecommunication network.
Following her opposition earlier this year to the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the COW city council and Huawei, Cornelius claims she was offered 5-6 million NAD ($300,000 – $360,000) to drop her objections and allow the city council to approve the signing of the MoU.
According to Cornelius, Ndjoze told her on May 12 she could receive the payment in exchange for dropping her opposition to signing the MoU with Huawei. Ndjoze allegedly told Cornelius the deal with Huawei was spearheaded by his nephew.
Kandjiriomuini allegedly enlisted Ndjoze’s help, knowing that he was a member of the same political party as Cornelius, to persuade her to accept the bribe and allow the MOU to be signed, according to Cornelius.
There is no evidence Huawei has any knowledge of these events.
Cornelius states in the affidavit that following Ndjoze’s alleged offer, she reported the attempted bribery to the police, who equipped her with hidden recording devices for future meetings with Kandjiriomuini and Ndjoze.
The affidavit explains how the following day, on May 20, Kandjiriomuini requested a meeting with Cornelius and Ndjoze. Picking her up from the COW municipality, Ndjoze drove Cornelius to a petrol station at the edge of town. En route, Ndjoze informed Cornelius that “local guys who we can trust” would set up a joint venture with Huawei.
Cornelius describes how Ndjoze told her to “relax” and that she was in “good hands” after Cornelius let him know she was scared to participate in such a scheme given the backlash caused by Al Jazeera’s Fishrot expose.
Surveillance footage obtained exclusively by Al Jazeera confirms that Ndjoze arrived at the petrol station with Cornelius at 16:44 local time, about 10 minutes after Kandjiriomuini. Ndjoze and Kandjiriomuini are seen having a discussion outside the car, before Kandjiriomuini steps into Ndjoze’s car, and they drive off.
CCTV footage obtained by Al Jazeera confirm a meeting took place at the petrol station [Al Jazeera]
The three then headed to the discreet Eagle’s Beer Garden on Windhoek’s Avis Reservoir. Cornelius described Kandjiriomuini and Ndjoze as being cautious to avoid anyone observing their meeting. During the conversation, Kandjiriomuini told Cornelius everything they discussed should be treated confidentially, that he was the driving force behind the planned deal with Huawei, and that the deal would be “to the benefit of all of us”.
According to the affidavit, when Cornelius asked directly when she should expect to receive her money, Kandjiriomuini responded that it would come when the MoU was signed and the project began.
Cornelius claimed the meeting with Ndjoze and Kandjiriomuini was covertly recorded using equipment hidden in her hat and undergarments as part of the investigation by the police. Al Jazeera was not able to independently verify the existence of the recording.
Kandjiriomuini said in a written statement to Al Jazeera: “There is no evidence of any recording in which I informed Ms Cornelius of any individuals benefiting from the Huawei project” and claimed that Cornelius had reasons for misrepresenting the position.
“I deny her false allegation.”
Ndjoze did not respond to Al Jazeera’s request for comment.
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