China: December 29, 1999


Dec 18: Tight security was imposed around Macau on the eve of its return to Chinese control on the 30th. Thousands of local police (already taking their orders from Beijing) sealed off border entry points and the area around the ceremonial handover venue. Chinese police on the mainland and in Hong Kong also tightened security to prevent the outlawed Falungong sect from keeping its vow to storm into the colony and wreck the ceremony. Dec 19: In a dignified ceremony, 443 years of Portuguese colonial rule over Macau came to an end, along with the last vestige of Portugal's once global empire. Macau will keep its free-wheeling economic system (as Hong Kong did) while all political, military, and police powers revert to Beijing. Chinese President Jiang Zemin said that this marked "another important step on the road to China's full reunification" , a veiled reference to Taiwan. The EU sent former Hong Kong governor Chris Patten as its delegation, a pointed warning to China that Europe would expect the Chinese to respect their commitments to continued economic independence. Portugal, with oblique references to East Timor, indicated that it would not look the other way if Macau was brought under a brutally repressive regime. Analysts noted that Portugal was giving China a colony with no industry other than gambling and prostitution, trades dominated by warring criminal gangs known as triads. Many residents of Macau hoped that China would move quickly to crush the criminal empires. Dec 20: The Chinese military garrison for Macau proudly marched into the city, taking over its previously arranged barracks. --Stephen V Cole

FBI investigators testified in court that former nuclear scientist Wen Ho Lee (now in jail awaiting trial for mishandling classified data) had convinced a colleague to teach him how to download secret information onto storage tapes (which were not authorized to hold classified data). Lee reportedly told the colleague that he was working on his resume and needed to reference certain classified files. The FBI noted that Lee made the nine tapes of classified information while working during evenings and weekends, and had done so in a "somewhat secretive" manner. The FBI has Wen Ho Lee's diary, which lists details of when and how he moved secret files onto the tapes. --Stephen V Cole

China insists that its nuclear power reactors will operate reliably and safely through the Y2K problems on New Year's Day. Li Dingfan, President of the China National Nuclear Corporation, said that his reactors could be shut down quickly and safely if any problems appeared.--Stephen V Cole




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