Monday, July 13, 2009

The Hu case

According to Greg Sheridan "The bottom line is clear - if Hu is not released, our relationship with China is shattered." Is it?

It seems to be escaping most Australia commentators that Mr Hu may be guilty of the charge of paying bribes.

Sheridan continues "Only if the broad Australian civil society demonstrates its shock and anger at China's crude tactics of intimidation is there a chance that cooler heads in Beijing might see the damage these outrageous actions are doing to China's reputation internationally, as well as its interests in Australia." When is it outrageous to arrest a person suspected of espionage?

John Garnaut is at least a bit more measured in his analysis noting "The investigation appears to be part of a big realignment of how China manages its economy, with spy and security agencies promoted to top strategy-making bodies." This focuses more on the question of whether paying bribes should be considered as espionage rather than merely a commercial crime.

In reality a lot of this will depend on whatever facts are revealed. I can consider circumstances wherein Australian citizens would consider the bribing of Australian commercial negotiators for information as espionage, given the extent to which we like to claim sovereignty over our commercial interests.

And it isn't that long ago that all our commodity exports did go through Government sanctioned single desks, and one of our last remaining was guilty of a similar crime to Mr Hu. Excatly what would we think if AWB had been the recipient of bribes for information about the national negotiating position.

It is also noteworthy that Garnaut's sources dismiss the idea this is pay-back for the Chinalco deal falling through.

It is also interesting to note that the time-honoured cold war technique of dealing with espionage charges hasn't been used yet - fitting up a Chinese national on an espionage charge. So Rudd has still plenty of room to move.

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