Beijing leans on UCSD

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The Dalai Lama

By now, of course, we’re used to college students who don’t get the idea of free speech trying to cancel lectures by people they disagree with. But even we were surprised to read a recent article in Quartz about student outrage at the University of California at San Diego over plans to have the Dalai Lama, of all people, deliver the keynote at the commencement ceremony this June.

Which students were outraged? Why, those from Communist China, who, like their government back home, consider the Dalai Lama – the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet – a terrorist. “Just hours after the announcement” of the Dalai Lama’s big gig, reported Quartz’s Josh Horwitz, the campus’s Chinese Students and Scholars Association (CSSA) did what any good little subject of a totalitarian regime would do: they passed the news on to their consulate. They also posted a statement online saying that the invitation to the Dalai Lama

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The CSSA at UCSD

contravened the spirit of respect, tolerance, equality, and earnestness— the ethos upon which the university is built. These actions have also dampened the academic enthusiasm of Chinese students and scholars. If the university insists on acting unilaterally and inviting the Dalai Lama to give a speech at the graduation ceremony, our association vows to take further measures to firmly resist the university’s unreasonable behavior. Specific details of these measures will be outlined in our future statements.

“Comments from Chinese students on Facebook,” noted Horwitz, were “couched in rhetoric commonly used to rally for inclusivity on campus.” The Dalai Lama was denounced as “oppressive,” the invitation as racist and an affront to “diversity.” A Chinese alumni group wrote a letter to the university chancellor insisting that UCSD should

spread a message that brings people together, rather than split them apart. During the campus commencement, there will be over a thousand Chinese students, families, and friends celebrating this precious moment with their loved ones. If Tenzin Gyatso [the Dalai Lama’s real name] expresses his political views under the guise of “spirituality and compassion,” the Chinese segment of this community will feel extremely offended and disrespected during this special occasion.

This from obedient subjects of a Communist country whose leaders, going back to Mao Zedong, have not only “offended and disrespected” more than a few people but killed more human beings than any other regime in recorded history.

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A library at UCSD

Horwitz pointed out that this dust-up wasn’t a first. In 2008, Chinese students at the University of Washington protested the awarding of an honorary degree to the Dalai Lama. The difference this time was the canny use by protesters of the language of inclusion and diversity. Another important factor here is the fact that, as China’s international status has risen, Chinese students at American universities, who used to behave themselves and keep a low profile, have found their voices and sought to throw their weight around. According to Horwitz, it’s widely believed that branches of the CSSA serve as conduits “for Chinese consulates to promulgate Communist Party orthodoxy” at non-Chinese universities. Only a week before the UCSD protest, a Chinese diplomat in London urged the cancellation of a Durham University talk by a Chinese-Canadian human-rights activist.

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Tsering Topgyal

Dr. Tsering Topgyal, a Tibetan UCSD alumnus told Horwitz, observed that “If the Chinese students wish to exploit diversity, they would come across as more convincing if they were more committed and supportive of this principle back home.” It would certainly be nice if one of the things they learned during their years of study in the United States is the value of freedom and the need to resist tyranny.

The bag man and the money mole

We’ve been looking at some of the more colorful Brazilian stooges whose careers have gone belly-up as a result of the massive corruption scandal surrounding Petrobras, the state-run oil giant. Here are three more. 

Brasil, Brasília, DF. 18/10/2005. O doleiro Alberto Youssef, operador do mercado financeiro que teria ligações com a corretora Bonus-Banval, depõe na sub-relatoria de Movimentação Financeira da Comissão Parlamentar Mista de Inquérito (CPMI) dos Correios, no Congresso Nacional, em Brasília (DF). - Crédito:JOEDSON ALVES/ESTADÃO CONTEÚDO/AE/Código imagem:161138
Alberto Youssef

Let’s start with Alberto “Beto” Youssef. A Bloomberg profile last year described him as “Brazil’s black-market central banker” – meaning that over the years he’s “smuggled cash for the rich and powerful” as part of a plethora of sleazy schemes. As a result of all this sordid activity, he’s been arrested nine times on a wide range of charges.

But his most recent role is definitely the role of a lifetime. Youssef was none other than the bagman in the Petrobras affair. Which means that when a blizzard of construction firms “bribed politicians and executives to look the other way as they inflated contracts” with Petrobras and other government-owned firms, Youssef played banker. He’s fessed up about all this to prosecutors – and, in the process, has also fingered other participants in the scheme, all the way up to President Dilma Rousseff herself, who ran the oil firm from 2003 to 2010. In return for his cooperation, his prison sentence of nine years and two months for money-laundering was reduced to three years. 

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Rafael Angulo Lopez

Working as Youssef’s “money mule” in the Petrobras affair was a guy named Rafael Angulo Lopez, who “flew around the world with shrink-wrapped bricks of cash strapped underneath his clothing.” Last August, the New York Times quoted his lawyer as saying that Lopez “took hundreds of trips…with portable fortunes cinched under his clothing.” On one occasion, he traveled with five hundred thousand euros in cash on his person. “He wore the sort of socks favored by soccer players,” reported the Times, and, when the haul was especially large, an orthopedic undershirt.”

The Independent provided even more details: Lopez would wrap “piles of bills in plastic wrap, pricking the packages and then squeezing them to get all the air out.” He then “stuck the packages to his legs, torso and arms and concealed them with elasticated clothing like Spanx and compression socks, underneath a baggy suit.” In this way, he managed to transport “up to $1.4 million to Europe on his body on commercial flights.” Quartz suggested that the story be turned into “a Brazilian version of Wolf of Wall Street, with middle-aged couriers in baggy suits and compression vests in place of Swiss misses in stilettos and bikinis.”

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Paulo Roberto Costa

Then there’s Paulo Roberto Costa, Petrobras’s former director of refining and supply, whose acceptance of a $78,000 Land Rover from Youssef marked the genesis of Operation Car Wash and whose confirmation of Youssef’s testimony – and implication of several dozen politicians in the scheme – helped widen the probe dramatically.

It also brought his sentence down to time served – a year in the can – plus another year’s house arrest. Without my tip-off, the probe would not have existed,” he bragged in November. He’s now writing a book about his experiences. Presumably he’ll make a nice little sum off of that.