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China Security Memo: Aug. 5, 2010

11 MINS READAug 5, 2010 | 18:13 GMT

Changsha Bombing

At 4:15 p.m. on July 30, an explosion occurred on the third floor of a tax office in downtown Changsha, Hunan province, killing four people and injuring 19. Apparently caused by an improvised explosive device (IED), the explosion was powerful enough to damage the interior of the building, blow out the windows on the third floor and cause some damage to the exterior. No pictures are available of the interior, but it appears that the damage was limited to the third floor. Chinese police are searching for their main suspect, Liu Zhuiheng, although they have not disclosed the evidence that links Liu to the bombing. The attack demonstrated a higher level of sophistication than the impulsive attacks ordinarily carried out in China to express personal or political grievances, and it could signal a trend toward more proficiency in bombmaking and deployment. According to media reports, Liu was allegedly targeting a party official in the tax office named Peng Tao, who died in the attack. Peng Tao was the son of Peng Maowu, a bank president in nearby Shaodong county. Liu is thought to have had a grudge against the father, but given that the tax office in Changsha would oversee tax collection for the province, including Liu's hometown of Hengyang, his grievance may have been with Peng Tao or the tax office. There is now a 100,000 yuan, or about $15,000, reward for Liu's arrest. It appears the bomber carefully targeted the office, and specifically Peng Tao. He arrived on the third floor, looked into a meeting room to confirm Peng was there, then either threw a bag containing the bomb into the room or set it outside in the hallway (reports differ). He then left the building, and the IED detonated. Local media say it was remotely detonated, but it could have been a timed device. Given media descriptions of the damage and of the device, it appears to have been a small parcel bomb. Attacks in China commonly involve dynamite or other materiel acquired from mining or construction stores, and a small amount of mining explosives packed in a bag could have caused the damage depicted in the media. But STRATFOR is curious about the evidence of a remote detonator. None has been offered, nor an estimate given of the elapsed time between placement and detonation. China sees spates of attacks by disgruntled citizens every year, from stabbings to self-immolation to crude bombings. The latter has been the method of choice for expressing political grievances, but such bombings, often involving fireworks and gasoline, tend to result in the immediate death or capture of the attacker. Building a remote detonator to avoid such a fate requires a bombmaker with some expertise. A simple timing device could also explain the detonation delay. The bomber even had an escape plan, fleeing the area and switching mobile phones. Unlike more common attacks in China, with little planning or thought, this bombing was relatively well conceived. If the investigation reveals a bomber who has the ability to construct a remote detonator (typically made from a mobile phone), it could be a major security concern for Beijing. The question is, will future IED attacks, unrelated to this one, be increasingly more sophisticated?

Huawei Update

Bloomberg published a report Aug. 3 from an anonymous source that Huawei, a Chinese telecom-hardware firm, failed in an attempt to buy two U.S. companies because the U.S. government would not approve the sales. According to the source, the two U.S. companies, 2Wire and Motorola's wireless-equipment unit, rejected the Huawei bids because both believed the offers would not receive government approval, even though Huawei made the highest offers, $100 million more in each case than the next highest bid. Huawei's loss is not surprising given the controversy surrounding the company, which is accused of intellectual property theft and shady ties with the Chinese military even as it continues an overseas expansion drive. Huawei founder Ren Zhengfei, a former People's Liberation Army (PLA) officer, allegedly maintains connections with China's military and security establishment. The company's first major business contracts involved building the PLA's communications networks. It also has received numerous contracts from Chinese state-owned enterprises (SOEs), which is typical of any major company in China. Beyond that, the allegations stem from the air of secrecy that surrounds Ren, who refuses to give interviews while his company generally ignores claims against it. Responses from local governments where Huawei has tried to enter the market focus on the possible intelligence capabilities that Huawei could offer China. Telecommunications hardware is instrumental to intercepting communications, something the governments of India, Australia and the United States have all been wary of in recent years when reviewing deals with Huawei. Motorola also has accused the company of stealing commercial secrets in a case that began only after the Motorola sale fell through. On July 22, Motorola filed a complaint in a U.S. court alleging that 12 former employees, including Pan Shaowei, were passing proprietary information to Huawei. Pan allegedly met with Ren, the Huawei CEO, numerous times and gave him Motorola hardware specifications. Pan and others from the Motorola main office in Schaumburg, Ill., set up a separate business, Lemko Corp., which allegedly was used to acquire and reproduce Motorola technology. Although this case was opened only after the failed sale to Huawei (Motorola evidently did not want to disrupt the bidding), it does suggest that Huawei's alleged commercial espionage activities fit the Chinese model. It is very common for Chinese employees of foreign companies to pass information to Chinese counterparts within the government or SOEs. The Washington Post reported July 20 that the U.S. Department of Justice has prosecuted more than 40 such cases in the last two years. If the evidence adds up against Huawei in the Motorola case, it could provide a stronger case against Huawei as an alleged security risk. Foreign governments are wary of the company, but little of this concern has been publicly substantiated. Now one of the world's largest telecommunications companies, Huawei could find it more difficult to continue its global expansion as foreign governments grow more concerned about the risks it might bring with it. (click here to view interactive graphic)

July 29

  • The Chongqing Public Security Bureau (PSB) confiscated 7.1 million yuan in counterfeit money in the first half of 2010, down 74 percent from 2009.
  • The Chaoyang District Court in Beijing sentenced the vice general manager of Beijing Tengqi Real Estate Development company to 17 months in prison for paying enforcers to demolish shops of storeowners who did not want to leave the area. It is uncommon for someone to be charged with illegal demolition inside Beijing.
  • Police in Dongguan, Guangdong province, arrested two men after two women accused them of rape. One of the men was shot and injured while attempting to escape.
  • The Pingjiang District People's Court in Suzhou, Jiangsu province, gave two men 33-month prison sentences for pimping eight male prostitutes from October to November 2008. The service found clients through the Internet.
  • The State Council's Work Safety Committee in Beijing reported 155 people have died in fires so far in 2010, an 82 percent increase from the same period in 2009. The worst incident was on July 19 in Urumqi, with 12 deaths and 17 injuries when an apartment complex caught fire.

July 30

  • Border police in Dehong, Yunnan province, confiscated 18.1 kilograms of opium July 28 after being tipped off that a group would bring the drugs into the country from Myanmar, Chinese media reported. Three men on motorcycles were arrested and the drugs were found in their backpacks. They have confessed to the crime, stating that they were paid 30,000 yuan to smuggle the drugs into China.
  • Xiao Xianmin, the former president of Guangzhou Ocean Shipping Supply Corporation in Guangzhou, Guandong province, was given a 15-year prison sentence for embezzling 58 million yuan in public funds in order to pay a gambling debt.
  • The State Council Work Safety Committee Office announced a crackdown on illegal manufacturing. The national-level office said it would concentrate its efforts on smelting, chemical and fireworks operations.
  • Former Chongqing Higher People's Court associate chief judge Zhang Tao stood trial for taking bribes between 1999 and 2009 in the amount of 9 million yuan and involvement with organized crime activities in Guizhou province.

July 31

  • A man was shot and wounded after he stabbed and killed a policeman in Dandong, Liaoning province. The man attempted to smash windows in a police car for unknown reasons, which started the confrontation.

Aug. 1

  • Li Xianliang is accused of killing 11 people and injuring 30 after getting drunk and driving a forklift into buildings in Shijiazhuang, Hebei province. Li was reportedly drinking with several people, and after getting in a fight with one of them, attempted to bring the man's apartment complex down. Li was injured in the incident and has been detained.

Aug. 2

  • The Zhejiang provincial PSB arrested Zhejiang Provincial Higher Court associate chief judge Pan Huashan for murder. A man who lost a case at the court accused Pan of accepting bribes in return for help on the case. Pan allegedly killed the accuser and dismembered his corpse. When the victim's body parts were discovered and identified, Pan was detained.

Aug. 3

  • A conflict over disputed coal mining areas on the border between Shenmu, Shaanxi province, and Inner Mongolia province continues to brew. Beginning July 25, it has involved 10,000 citizens and more than 1,000 police officers, with police from both provinces in direct conflict with each other. The Hong Kong Information Centre for Human Rights and Democracy has reported 50 people have been injured in beating incidents, in another example of mob violence. The conflict was initially thought to have started over grazing lands but actually stems from a dispute over mining rights to seams of coal that run on either side of the border between Inner Mongolia and Shaanxi. Premier Wen Jiabao has become involved in the conflict, asking both sides to remain calm.
  • A 73-year-old woman from Fenghua, Zhejiang province, was charged with drug trafficking after police in Kunming found a black plastic bag in her possession containing 545 grams of amphetamine chloride. The widow needed the money after having a heart attack and no way to pay for medicine. She was paid 10,000 yuan to fly the drugs from Hangzhou, Zhejiang province, to Kunming.
  • The Hangzhou Municipal Intermediate People's Court on Aug. 3 sentenced a former district party chief in Wenzhou, Zhejiang province, to death for murdering his mistress in November 2009. The man dismembered her corpse and threw her body parts into a river. The man deceived his mistress' family into believing she was still alive for four months before they became suspicious and called police.
  • A 26-year-old man is accused of killing three children and a teacher, and wounding 20 others, seven seriously, with a 24-inch knife at Boshan District Experimental Kindergarten in Zibo, Shangdong province. The man reportedly confessed but the reason for the assault is unknown. The incident was removed from Chinese media websites over fears of copycat killings, according to the government.
  • Police in Weiyuan, Sichuan province, fought protesters in a riot started after police allegedly beat the owner of a badly parked motorcycle. The incident lasted about 13 hours with thousands of bystanders watching. The rioters overturned police vehicles and threw stones and bottles at the police station. At least 10 people were injured, including police officers.

Aug. 4

  • Fourteen suspects have been arrested in connection with the theft of 51 high-end cars stolen throughout Guilin, Guangxi province, over the past four months. The alleged auto theft gang used advanced methods to steal the cars, bypassing keyless entry systems and disabling the GPS systems to avoid being tracked.

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