Chinese billionaire Li Ka-Shing
Amid the recent Dubai ports controversy President Bush assured Congress port security remained under U.S. supervision, but the administration is raising concerns again with its decision to hire a Hong Kong firm linked to the communist Beijing regime to monitor nuclear materials that pass through the Bahamas to the United States and other countries.
A contract is being finalized with Hutchison Whampoa Ltd., the world’s largest port operator, to inspect cargo at Freeport, about 65 miles from the U.S. coast, where it likely would be inspected again, the Associated Press reported.
The Bush administration acknowledged the deal will mark the first time the sophisticated U.S. detection equipment will be used at an overseas port by a foreign company without the presence of American customs agents.
Earlier this month, with Congress moving to overrule the White House, the Arab government-owned Dubai Ports World announced it would give up its management stake in a deal to operate some of the terminals at U.S. ports and transfer it to an American company.
Hutchison Whampoa was among the first to adopt U.S. anti-terror measures, but U.S. officials in the past have raised concerns about chairman Li Ka-Shing’s significant business ties to the Beijing regime.
”Li Ka-Shing is pretty close to a lot of senior leaders of the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party,” Larry M. Wortzel, head of a U.S. government commission that studies China, told the Associated Press.
Wortzel pointed out, however, Hutchison operates independently from Beijing.
U.S. officials also insist the CIA has no security concerns about Hutchison’s port operations, which would be supervised by Bahamian customs officers. If the equipment detects any nuclear device, it would set off alarms monitored by Bahamian inspectors and by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials in Virginia.
”The equipment operates itself,” said Bryan Wilkes, a spokesman for the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration said, according to AP.
As WorldNetDaily reported in 2003, declassified U.S. government intelligence reports uncovered by the public-interest group Judicial Watch under the Freedom of Information Act portrayed Li’s relationship with the Chinese government as close and influential.
A U.S. Army South “Intelligence Update” stated, “Li is directly connected to Beijing and is willing to use his business influence to further the aims of the Chinese government.”
Regarding Hutchison Whampoa’s controversial takeover of the Panama Canal, the intelligence report stated, “Li’s interest in the [Panama] canal is not only strategic, but also as a means for outside financial opportunities for the Chinese government.”
An “Intelligence Assessment” from the U.S. Southern Command’s Joint Intelligence Center stated Li “has extensive business ties in Beijing and has compelling financial reasons to maintain a good relationship with China’s leadership.”
In addition, Li was the founder and a board member of the China International Trust and Investment Corporation, or CITIC. In a 1997 report entitled, “Chinese Military Commerce and U.S. National Security,” the RAND Center for Asia Pacific Policy reported that CITIC acted as a “shell” or front operation on behalf of China’s Peoples’ Liberation Army.
The Judicial Watch complaint concluded that the billionaire is “an agent of the government of the Peoples’ Republic of China.”