A Panamanian presidential candidate has asked the U.S. Justice
Department to investigate China's activities around the canal and the
possibility of a quid pro quo between the Clinton administration and the
Asian Communist power.
Concerned about possible executive branch complicity in China's
gatekeeper status at the Panama Canal, Panamanian presidential candidate
William Bright Marine wrote to the Justice Department May 4: "I have yet
to speak to one single American who is not outraged at the fact that the
Clinton administration has allowed Communist China to obtain control of
U.S. ports, U.S. bases, and functions of the Panama Canal. They today,
effectively control access to the Panama Canal ... this agreement could
not have happened, without the consent of the Clinton administration ...
the executive branch has been copied by my correspondence regarding
communist China dating back to late 1996. They cannot claim ignorance."
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The Justice Department has not yet responded.
Marine is a dual U.S-Panamanian citizen born and raised in the canal
zone. The 45-year-old businessman has been a catalyst in Panama politics
since the Noriega era when he was jailed and exiled for opposition to
the regime. ABC's "nightline" featured Marine in an edition detailing
the treatment of prisoners jailed by the dictator. The former "Zonian"
threw his hat in the ring with a platform of negotiating a new U.S. base
and Panama Canal treaty -- and canceling "law #5" which gives
Hutchinson-Whampoa Ltd. rights to key former U.S. ports and military
The 1977 Panama Canal treaties give complete legal jurisdiction over
the canal to Panama on midnight, Dec. 31, 1999. The U.S. has been
following a scheduled transition process of handing over facilities and
control to Panama.
Marine told WorldNetDaily that article 319 of Panama's constitution
was violated because Panama never held a plebiscite allowing the people
to vote on leasing the ports to Hutchinson-Whampoa Ltd. The Hutchinson
subsidiary Hong Kong International Terminals (HIT) uses the alias Panama
Ports Company (PPC) in Panama. Marine claims this helps keep the
Panamanian people in the dark about who is controlling their ports and
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U.S. Army Gen. Gordan Sumner, ret., former chairman of the
inter-American defense board and ambassador at large at the State
Department told WorldNetDaily: "Apparently Hutchinson is a good solid
commercial operation, I guess the problem from our standpoint is it's
basically controlled by the Chinese Communists. It is a way of getting
in here and yonder including into the Long Beach facility. That's
something that when you look at what's going on at the White House with
Clinton and the Chinese, the Chinese penetration there -- it raises a
lot of questions in a lot of peoples' minds; it's a problem."
A Senate Committee on Foreign Relations staff report on the
privatization of the Panamanian ports dated May 14, 1997, identified
Hutchinson's subsidiary HIT, or Panama Ports Company, as being 10
percent owned by China Resources Enterprise (CRE), which is the
commercial arm of China's "Ministry of Trade and Economic Co-operation."
During the Senate Governmental Affairs Committee hearings, the South
China Morning Post on July 16, 1997, quoted Sen. Fred Thompson as saying
China Resources was "an agent of espionage - economic, military, and
political - for China."
"China Resources denied allegations it helped spy for Beijing.
Chairman Gu Yongjiang said claims made during United States Senate
hearings on campaign finance abuse were 'total nonsense,'" the paper
Also, a Lippo Group connection to CRE can be found from the hearings
which focused on illegal foreign contributions. Marine hopes an
investigation can reveal if those contributions are responsible for the
situation at the Panama canal.
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Thompson's summary of hearings into 1996 campaign finance abuses
stated: "Lippo group, run by the Riady family which employed (John)
Huang, had over the past few years become a major business partner with
China Resources, a trading company wholly owned by the Government of the
peoples republic of China, and which has reportedly served as an
intelligence-collection front for China."
The South China Morning Post article stated China Resources
(Holdings) "has solid relations with the Lippo Group. In 1992 it
acquired 50 percent of the Hong Kong Chinese Bank, which is also 50
percent owned by Lippo, and sold the stake to its listed arm China
resources Enterprise last month."
The Post quotes Thompson saying "Lippo had shifted its strategic
center from Indonesia to China ... much of the conglomerate's business
now involved joint ventures with China Resources and the latter had a
more geopolitical purpose. Kind of like a smiling tiger; it might look
friendly, but it's very dangerous."
Marine mentioned to WorldNetDaily the famous photograph of President
Clinton giving a radio address with representatives of China Resources
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On Jan. 2, 1997, Emily Lau replied to Bill Bright's query about
Hutchinson. Lau at the time was a Hong Kong legislator until China
dissolved the legislature. Her note reads, "The major shareholder of
Hutchinson is Mr. Li-Ka Shing, one of the richest men in HK and a close
advisor to the Chinese Government. I am not familiar with the situation
in Panama but I have full sympathy for your worries."
The Senate report muses: "A question to consider is the extent that
the PRC can, if at all, pressure Ka-Shing into altering his business
practices to favor mainland China."
An October 1996 Journal of Commerce article by Joe Studwell reported,
"When Hong Kong reverts to Chinese rule in July, tycoon Li Ka-Shing,
uncrowned prince of the colony, is sure to be standing next to the top
leaders of Beijing. Li's flagship Hutchison Whampoa Ltd. gives him the
best connections with top Chinese government officials of any local
tycoon. Its core is Hong Kong International Terminals Ltd. (HIT), the
largest box handler in Hong Kong. ..."
The Senate Foreign Relations report also revealed Hutchinson's
subsidiary HIT had business ventures with COSCO, the China Ocean
Shipping Company. The Chinese army owns COSCO.
A State Dept. official told the WorldNetDaily "There are no Chinese
ports. There is a holding company based in Hong Kong that has invested
in those ports, but the term Chinese ports is a misnomer as it implies
some sort of overall control. This is an investment and business group."
Marine displayed briefings faxed to multiple government and private
recipients from the time Hutchinson first showed interest in the ports
in 1996. There is ample evidence of resulting congressional and Senate
interest in the matter but not from the executive branch. In fact, Mr.
Marine claims the U.S. Embassy, State Department and the government of
Panama misrepresented Hutchinson's connections.
Writing of his trip to Washington where he put on a presentation to
key congressional committees, he told the Justice Department: "I
traveled to Washington in March 97, and met with key people in Congress.
Based on this trip, several articles appeared in the newspapers
regarding Communist China controlling the Panama Canal. Based on the
information provided, multiple congressional delegations have traveled
to Panama. Each and every one of these missions have been misled by
Ambassador Hughes. Until recently, he told them that Hutchinson has no
ties to Communist China."
U.S. Rep. Bob Barr, R-GA, visited Panama on a recent fact-finding
trip in early February 1998. Barr told WorldNetDaily "controlling ports
at both ends of the canal will give the Communist Chinese the ability to
shut the canal on and off at will. It also raises the possibility that
ships could be trapped in the canal for extended periods by closed ports
at one end or the other, This situation will dramatically raise the
potential for U.S.-Chinese confrontations."
"The president of the United States has the ability today to go right
down to the President of Panama and say we will not stand for this and
Panama would be forced to let these guys go," said Marine. "That's the
type of juice we have down there."
At the time Hutchinson obtained the Panama Canal ports, it moved to
gain Subic Bay in the Philippines in the wake of the U.S. departure.
Marine sent warnings about Hutchinson to Phillipine officials. President
Ramos twice vetoed Hutchinson's award and the company was denied the
After President Balladares of Panama was elected in May 1994, the
government began searching for companies to privatize the ports claiming
high operating costs and inefficiency.
Panamanian law doesn't require a bidding process, but bids were taken
in a process criticized by U.S. Ambassador Hughes as "unorthodox" and
"lacking transparency." Hutchinson won amid cries of protest from
competitors. There was talk of shady deals under the table. In their
defense, Panama officials said they were inexperienced at taking bids.
What followed was a "sweetheart deal," claimed critics, that violates
the canal treaty between the U.S. and Panama, violates the constitution
of Panama and risks the security of the canal, the U.S., and Panama. The
contract is for 50 years.
Marine described in his letter how the U.S. Ambassador got his first
look at the secretive agreement about to be implemented:
"Eight days before the Communist China takeover date of March 1,
1997, an American executive met with U.S. Ambassador William Hughes in
Panama. At this meeting, the executive advised Ambassador Hughes what
was in the Panama Communist treaty. Mr. Hughes and Commercial Attache
Benson were surprised, and kept repeating time after time, no that
cannot be, that was taken out. That same evening, the executive
hand-delivered a copy of the law number 5 in Spanish to Ambassador
Hughes' residence. The attached copy of the law number 5 in English was
hand delivered to the executive several days later. The sections marked
with AE came that way from the US Embassy. ..." Marine displayed a copy
showing where the ambassador underlined his concerns.
The U.S. Embassy has not responded to submitted questions and
multiple calls from WorldNetDaily about this matter.
Following are some key "rights" from "law #5" granted to China's
Responsibility for hiring new pilots for the canal. (Pilots steer
all ships passing through canal);
Assume control over critical Atlantic/Pacific anchorages, including
a monopoly on the Pacific side when Rodman Naval base is vacated next
year.(According to "law #5" effective March 1, 1997, Hutchinson has
right to demand Rodman);
Authority to control the order of ships utilizing the entrance to
the canal on the Pacific side. Also the right to deny ships access to
the ports and entrances of the canal if they are deemed to be
interfering with Hutchinson's business -- in direct violation of the
1977 Panama Canal treaty which guarantees expeditious passage for the
The right to unilaterally transfer its rights to a third party
(any company or nation of their choosing);
Certain public roads become private, cutting off strategic areas of
Included in the deal for Hutchinson is U.S. Naval Station Rodman; a
portion of U.S. Air Station Albrook; Diablo; Balboa (Pacific U.S.-built
port); Cristobal (Atlantic U.S.-built port); the Island of Telfers
(strategically located adjacent to Galeta Island, a critical
communications center). Telfers Island is the future home of the Chinese
planned export zone called "The Great Wall of China Project."
A clause was inserted at the end of "law #5" that states if a
conflict between provisions of the law and provisions of the Canal
treaty occur, the Canal treaty prevails. Marine says the clause that is
only as good as the governments in place willing to back it up.