In the Loop: Did China let protesters jostle Gary Locke’s car?

Al Kamen
Columnist October 18, 2012

We’re hearing there may have been a little more to that Sept. 18 incident in Beijing when Chinese protesters, angered by a recent Japanese move on a bitterly disputed island in the East China Sea (think huge oil and gas reserves), were demonstrating at the U.S. Embassy.

At one point, protesters surrounded and jostled a car carrying U.S. Ambassador to China Gary Locke and briefly prevented him from entering the embassy.

Al Kamen, an award-winning columnist on the national staff of The Washington Post, created the “In the Loop” column in 1993. View Archive

Washington hasn’t taken sides in the island dispute and is nervously urging China and Japan to work this out, but the protesters were at the U.S. Embassy anyway. (It’s not far from the Japanese Embassy, so maybe they got bored there and walked over.)

At the time, Locke said he never felt in danger and reported that Chinese police cleared the scene quickly. U.S. officials nevertheless formally complained and urged the Chinese “to do everything they can to protect our personnel.”

Shouldn’t be hard, given that these demonstrations are often tightly controlled — if not instigated and paid for — by the government.

An account of the incident from one knowledgable source offered some additional details. Seems there are two entrances to the embassy for automobiles — one public and one private.

On that day, when Locke’s car came to the private entrance, it was blocked by the Chinese police (wujing) who guard embassies, and he couldn’t get through.

They diverted his car to the public entrance around the corner, but that took him right into the group of about 50 protesters, who surrounded the car and rocked it a bit.

Several protesters threw objects — looks like plastic water bottles — at the car, and one missile bounced off the windshield. The wujing stepped in, and Locke’s car was able to make its way down the street to enter through the public entrance.

A State Department spokesman said that our account was “overblown” and that the wujing quickly cleared the demonstrators.

A video shows perhaps a fair amount of confusion all around. But it clearly shows the police blocking the car and directing it right into the protesters. Then the wujing step in to extricate Locke.

Well, one would hope the Middle Kingdom, of all places, wouldn’t stoop to such macho gamesmanship — except maybe when oil and gas reserves are stake.

Roughing the Democrat

In what’s looking like a border-state war, those Kentucky senators (both Republicans) really have it out for West Virginia’s Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat. And their reasons come from deep and tribal places: politics and football.

Sen. Rand Paul recently began running pretty brutal ads targeting a few of his Democratic colleagues, including Manchin, who opposed his effort to cut off aid to Pakistan, Egypt and Libya. The ads accuse the Dems of siding with jihadists and the like.

Paul already had a home-state-pride reason to relish attacking the West Virginian. See, Manchin royally ticked off Paul’s fellow Kentucky Republican, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, over the Big 12 conference expansion last year.

Manchin, a former football player for his beloved West Virginia University Mountaineers, wanted to see his alma mater admitted to the prestigious conference, while McConnell was lobbying for his University of Louisville. The spat got ugly, with a tense exchange on the Senate floor and frosty fallout. McConnell still harbors a grudge, we hear, and the fact that West Virginia ultimately got the slot can’t help.

And since McConnell and the maverick Paul are forging a new “odd-couple” friendship, now they’ve got something more to bond over.

Does this orange jumpsuit make me look fat?

There was much discussion of fashion during the pretrial hearing for five alleged Sept. 11 terrorists at the Guantanamo Bay naval base this week.

Western-style suits, pockets vs. no pockets, weather-appropriateness, color choice, camouflage and uniforms were among the topics debated, after which the judge presiding over the military tribunal ultimately ruled that the defendants could wear camouflage, but not U.S. military garb, to the proceedings.

Seems Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the accused mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, and Walid bin Attash had wanted to wear uniforms that made them appear less like civilians in order to bolster their cases, much like defendants in regular court shun orange jumpsuits to avoid looking guilty.

And in a related matter, Mohammed appeared at the proceedings with his beard dyed with henna to a bright red (the Associated Press described the shade as “rust,” prompting speculation about the availability of grooming products in the facility).

The sartorial conversation, though, took over a good chunk of the hearing Tuesday. “I don’t think we need to argue this broadly about him going down to the clothing store and checking out the rack,” a defense attorney argued at one point, in an attempt to rein it in.

Gives new meaning to that adage about clothes making the man.

McHugh back, mending

Army Secretary John McHugh is back in the office after three weeks at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, recovering from a Sept. 24 bicycling accident in which he fractured his pelvis.

McHugh was riding on a Northern Virginia bike trail when he swerved to avoid a group of pedestrians and fell. The fracture didn’t require surgery, but he needed inpatient rehabilitation.

McHugh, a longtime bicycling enthusiast, was discharged Tuesday, a spokesman said, and returned to the office Wednesday. We understand that he had been staying on top of things, teleworking from the hospital.

With Emily Heil

The blog: washingtonpost.com/
intheloop. Twitter: @InTheLoopWP.

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