Our Asia superior in Hong Kong reported today that John Clancey was arrested under Hong Kong’s new draconian state security laws. John was a Maryknoll priest in Hong Kong right before I came. He left Maryknoll but stayed on in Hong Kong as a lawyer working for civil and human rights. He must have been doing good work to get Beijing riled up. Hang in there, John!
Donald Trump won the presidency by fewer than 80,000 votes, spread out across 3 states. But more than 7 million new voters have turned 18 since that election. Make sure your friends and family are registered and get out to vote. (Numbers from Blue Future.)
At the end of the year, many organizations, government offices, and NGOs reported their activities for 2019. CMAC (the Cambodian Mine Action Centre) reported that they had cleared more than 36,000 mines and UXOs in the year just ended. (UXO=Unexploded Ordnance). The front-page article above explained that 67 square kilometers of land had been de-mined. It then restated the government’s commitment to completely clear the remaining mine-contaminated 2,100 sq km by 2025! Having cleared only 67 sq km in 2019 and 72 sq km in 2018, that seems like an impossible goal! (As a footnote to this situation, remember that these mines were put down 35-45 years ago! Mines are insidious and rightfully banned by most of the world. The US is one of the few nations that has refused to sign on to the ban-landmine treaty.)
There was an article in the international press today about US governments taking measures to prevent farmland in the United States from being owned and controlled by foreign governments and entities. The US is probably taking those steps because of China’s aggressive policy of buying not just the crops from other countries but their natural resources and the land itself.
Cambodia is experience a devastating invasion by China and Chinese nationals. Every day there are articles in the papers about land values increasing beyond the reach of locals; neighborhoods and whole towns being changed by the influx of Chinese business people and tourists; the rates of crime going up because of Chinese gangs and criminal activities; etc.
This is all backed up by personal stories of the people we encounter in our mission work, people who have been negatively affected and displaced by the Chinese.
Notice how every sign now has Chinese characters. It has become so common and so blatant that the Cambodian government has now ruled that all signs, first of all, must HAVE Khmer lettering (some were only in Chinese), and secondly, that the Khmer letters must be approximately twice the size of the Chinese characters.
This is a view from the hilltop where the Catholic church center is located in Sihanoukville. In previous years this view was of trees. Now they are gone. Basically all of the buildings visible here have sprung up since our retreat a year ago.
In going to Sihanoukville for the priests retreat, the Chinese presence and influence was most obvious: • On the bus ride to Sihanoukville, the passengers across the aisle were speaking Mandarin. • We have too many priests for the rooms at the church center so in previous years the overflow stayed at the Salesian Priests training hotel twenty minutes away. Because of the increased traffic and congestion from construction, it now takes an hour to get to that site so our priests stayed in hotels–new and probably Chinese-owned–near the center. • The Salesians had a restaurant and gelato shop in central Sihanoukville. This year the rent was raised from $400 a month to almost $4,000 as the Chinese buy up everything in sight. The Salesians closed their shops where they had trained local youth. • The local people have been moved far outside the city, away from their jobs, as the Chinese buy up apartments and neighborhoods and raise the rents. • During the retreat I went to buy a Coke at a shop near the church. The shop is new and no one in the shop spoke English or Khmer, only Mandarin Chinese. • A local English newspaper is now producing a Chinese-language insert. • Construction is occurring everywhere and causing shortages of water and electricity. • The construction doesn’t benefit the locals. The construction companies are Chinese and they bring in their own workers. All the salaries, etc., go back to China. And the list goes on and on.
China now owns Cambodia and the government doesn’t complain because China gives them $600,000,000 a year no strings attached. (You can guess which pockets that goes into.) In return Cambodia supports China in international disputes, such as concerning the islands in the South China Sea.