Senators’ Chinese junket is shrouded in secrecy

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Senators’ Chinese junket is shrouded in secrecy

Post by Desperado on Wed Apr 27, 2011 8:35 pm

[You must be registered and logged in to see this image.] In the Loop | Al Kamen
Columnist

Senators’ Chinese junket is shrouded in secrecy

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By Al Kamen, Published: April 19

If it’s Passover, it must be Hong Kong. If it’s Easter, it must be Beijing. If it’s spring break, it must be a week-long jaunt by a large Senate delegation to China, led by Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.).

Ten senators, coming off a tough legislative session, plus spouses, staffers and military escorts, landed in the Middle Kingdom on Monday to begin a fine tour to Hong Kong, Chengdu, Xian and Beijing. The Senate news release calls it an “informational trip throughout China,” which Loop Fans know is a tip-off that this is going to be an excellent time.

There will be “site visits of American investments and clean energy projects,” and they are going to discuss “the global economy, security, trade, currency and foreign policy.”

Yes, indeed. There will be no time for shopping in Hong Kong and hardly any time to tour the giant panda’s native habitat in Chengdu or see the ginormous Buddha at Leshan. Not a minute for the Terra Cotta Warriors in lovely Xian, a walled city and the gateway to the Silk Road.

They’ll be so rushed gathering facts, they won’t have a chance to see the wonderful mausoleum of the Western Han emperor Liu Qi and his wife, a site out by the Xian airport that in some ways is more interesting than the famed warriors. But they’ve got to eat, so a stop at that dumpling restaurant just outside the wall is a must. You can tell what’s inside the dumplings because they’re shaped like pigs, cows, ducks, etc. And forget the Great Wall.

The trip is called a “senior” Senate delegation because, in addition to Reid, second-ranking Democrat Dick Durbin (Ill.) and other major players are on board: Democrats Barbara Boxer (Calif.), Chuck Schumer (N.Y.), Frank Lautenberg (N.J.), Jeff Merkley (Ore.) and Michael Bennet (Colo.) and Republicans Richard Shelby (Ala.), Mike Enzi (Wyo.) and Johnny Isakson (Ga.).

Can’t say whether the delegation, to show Washington’s concern over human rights, will be celebrating Good Friday or Easter with any of the Christians in Beijing who’ve been arrested on recent Sundays in the latest Communist crackdown on religious groups.

We can’t say because, when we tried to get more details on the itinerary, we were told no more could be disclosed because of “security concerns.” Over the years this arrant foolishness has become a major dodge to hide what lawmakers are going to be doing no matter where they travel abroad. (More details are released after the trips, but usually not complete itineraries.)

China, after all, is generally about as dangerous as McLean. The only security threat in Xian might be if one of the Terra Cotta guys came alive, yelled “Hey! It’s Jeff Merkley!” and smacked him upside the head.

Fellow travelers

At least 17 (that’s seventeen) senators are in Asia this week. (Surely others must be headed to St. Peter’s Square, no?)

In addition to the Reid delegation, there’s a five-member group led by Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on a week-long trip stopping in South Korea to discuss trade matters and then going on to some other to-be-disclosed destinations.

McConnell is joined by GOP Sens. Rob Portman (Ohio), Mike Johanns (Neb.), John Hoeven (N.D.) and Jerry Moran (Kan.). Spouses will be on the fine military jet but may not be going with the lawmakers to all locations.

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.), after a private trip in the region with his wife on his own dime, meets Sen. Jim Webb (D-Va.) in Hong Kong. Webb, on a two-week tour starting in South Korea and Vietnam, joins Levin for a trip to Guam, Okinawa and Tokyo. This has to do mainly with issues involved in moving the Marines from the base in Okinawa to a new facility in Guam under a recent relocation deal with the Japanese. Unclear whether Webb’s wife is traveling on the earlier parts of the trip.



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Re: Senators’ Chinese junket is shrouded in secrecy

Post by Desperado on Wed Apr 27, 2011 8:37 pm

I know this is a week old but I must have missed the coverage of this as I was unaware that it had taken place.

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