Thursday, June 28, 2007

My Concerns about President Hu Jintao's Recent Speech

Chinese President Hu Jintao delivered a major address at the Central Party School in Beijing on June 25. It was attended by members of the Politburo, the Central Committee, leaders of the military and security services, representatives of all cities, provinces and regions and the heads of top government organizations. It was front page news on the June 26 People's Daily newspaper under the title: "Firmly and Steadfastly Follow the Path of Socialism with Chinese Characteristics, Struggle to Achieve New Victories in Building a Basically Well-Off Society" (in Chinese: 坚定不移走中国特色社会主义伟大道路为夺取全面建设小康社会新胜利而奋斗). This speech presumably is intended to set the tone of the Party's 17th Congress coming up this fall.

After a careful reading of this long and comprehensive document, I came away with a sense of relative despair. The speech offers little hope that the pervasive problem of Communist Party officials placing serving the public good second to enriching themselves (and their cronies and families) will be effectively addressed in years ahead. The speech suggests to me that the Party cannot come up with any comprehensive policies beyond "more of the same." The speech makes promises (always short on specifics) similar to those that have not been fulfilled before; particularly the professed "unswerving" determination to somehow or other address official corruption which has been reiterated in speech after speech year after year . But the close collaboration of Communist Party officials with business people, sometimes with links to organized crime goes on unabated. The consequences: poor people forced out of their homes with little compensation often involving police intimidation and violence, child slavery in brick-making factories tolerated by officials in Shanxi with greased palms for years, deaths in coal mines where the Government inspectors were instructed to turn a blind eye, etc., etc., go on and on. Measures to encourage the development of a free and independent press and the development of a free and independent judiciary are really the only answer to this sort of thing, in my view. But President Hu's speech makes clear that Party control of the press and Party control of the judicial system will not be open to debate this fall.

Their is an increasingly awareness among ordinary citizens that their Government is not serving the interests of the people at large but rather primarily represents a hugely monied élite and an increasingly prosperous middle class co-opted by them. As the gap between rich and poor ever widens in China, class tensions grow. The Party's measures to respond to this are not proving adequate to the enormity of this issue.

I am increasingly concerned that the period after the 2008 Olympics may prove a "dangerous" one for the Party as ordinary Chinese people start to wonder "what next?"

Comments to a Student on 50th Anniversary of the Anti-Rightist Campaign and Taiwan Issue

I suppose that one could argue that the CCP's failed policies in the 50s, 60s and 70s are "responsible" for the alienation of Taiwan today. I tend to think that the launch of the Anti-Rightist campaign (50 years ago this year, but no one seems to have noticed much) in response to the "Hundred Flowers" was a signal moment in this. US-Soviet rivalry surely played a role in the enforced Taiwan separation from China as did Chiang Kai-Shek personally, but imagine if China had made a liberal choice in 1957 how much better things might have been if there had been no Great Leap Forward famine and no Cultural Revolution political, social and cultural disaster and no reason for Taiwan not to re-unite with the Mainland?

When I return to Shanghai next month I am staying in a new luxury guesthouse on the campus of Fudan that has been built exactly where my student dormitory (Building 4) was located. But when I was back on the campus last month, I was haunted by memories of those bleak days in the '70s when most of my friends were still suffering from the lingering effects of the various forms of torture that intellectuals had suffered until just shortly before I turned up there. People at Brock have no idea about any of this. But I find it hard to slough off the burden of memory of this past.

And ever today, there is still a need for intellectuals in China to "exercise caution."

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Comment to a Student on Conflating "American Hegemony" and "Liberal International Order"

Let me comment briefly on the popular view expressed by many Chinese people that you put on p. 17 "Washington wants China to be responsible to America, that is, responsible to the liberal international order that is under its (hegemonic) leadership. According to the hegemony theory, to make China a reasonable power from this perspective would only reinforce American hegemonic rule in the world. It will serve a core American interest." This goes along with the idea (that I believe has no empirical basis) that U.S. and China have "incompatible" "values." All the Chinese people that I know recognize liberal values as good and noble. A liberal international order is not something that the U.S. necessarily fully supports, but it is not something to be lightly discarded as a naive aspiration --- there could be international democracy just as there is domestic democracy in some places. But the same dictators who pay lip service to liberal ideals but justify their non-democratic rule and denial of social and economic justice to those outside their élite group as necessary due to limiting national conditions, tend to espouse a foreign policy doctrine that conflates a liberal international order with "American hegemonic rule." This assertion is demeaning to all democracies. If one asks the average Czech citizens if their decades under Stalinist-style dictators with their secret police and Party member privilege was justified to preserve Czech values and Czech prosperity against the challenge of U.S. bourgeois liberalization, they would likely tell you that things are much better now and their people are proud to be living in a democratic and free Czech Republic. Chinese people deserve the same dignity. And I think it will come, possibly relatively soon. But we can re-visit this question in a few years.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Views of Dalai Lama on How to Approach China's Rise

The Dalai Lama made this comment at the Australian National Press Club on June 12:
"It is absolutely wrong to isolate China and also contain China. It's wrong, morally also wrong. China must be brought into the mainstream of the world community, and now fortunately China themselves want to join the world community. Most welcome. Very good. However ... while you are making good relations, genuine friendship with China, certain principles such as human rights and also democracy, rule of law, free press, these things you should stand firm. That means you are a true friend of China."

Australian Prime Minister's Views on Visit of Dalai Lama to Australia

Prime Minister John Howard is quoted by Sky News as saying this on June 13:
"China has a very different political system to Australia's but I'd ask the Chinese to respect the way our culture and our political system works. This is one of the world's great liberal democracies and someone like the Dalai Lama would always be able to come to Australia."

Sunday, June 17, 2007

Rough translation by me of report about Canada-China Bilateral Human Rights Dialogue published in Singtao Daily News June 12, 2007

Request for financial aid in exchange for sensitive topics, Chinese human rights have a price, Canada proposes to suspend Dialogue

By Singtao Daily reporter Mary Yang

The Government of China has requested that the Government of Canada provide financial aid in exchange for Canada being allowed to bring up more sensitive issues in the Canada-China Human Rights Dialogue and for greater participation by NGOs. According to unnamed sources, Canada has never responded to China's demand. Liberal Member of Parliament, Bryon Wilfert condemns this proposal by China as unacceptable. Amnesty International calls upon the Parliamentary Foreign Affairs Committee to immediately make public the report on China's human rights. On Monday, The Globe and Mail reported on the content of the report assessing the Canada-China Human Rights Dialogue, indicating that China has requested "financial aid in exchange for discussion of sensitive human rights issues." Charles Burton who was responsible for writing the assessment report told the Sing Tao Daily News that officials of the Chinese Foreign Ministry made two requests of Canada during a meeting that took place in 2005. These were a request that Canada provide scholarships for Chinese officials to pursue M.A. degrees in Canada and for short term study visits, and a request that Canada provide a $60,000 contribution to Yunnan Province.

The Chinese officials indicated that if Canada responded favourably to their requests that it would establish a friendship relationship between Canada and China, and that this would lead to benefits. It would lead to a higher quality of Chinese officials coming to work in agencies that deal with human rights. It would make it easier for them to request permission from higher levels and get permission for more issues of a more sensitive nature to be discussed in the bilateral human rights dialogues, and to gain permission for more NGOs to participate in the dialogues. But the Chinese officials did not specify what sensitive topics these would be.

Charles Burton said that this was not the first time has brought up these requests. If he remembers correctly, Australia donated money to construct a school in China. The Chinese officials suggested that Canada could do the same as Australia.

Charles Burton indicated that Canada made clear to China that Ottawa could not fulfil these requests from China because Canada has no means to provide the requested funds. Yunnan is also not one of the Chinese provinces that Canada has identified as priority areas for poverty relief. Moreover, Canada feels that it would be inappropriate to do this.

He speculates that the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs has been assigned responsibility to assist in alleviating poverty in Yunnan, so they would like Canada to lend a hand with this. This incident reflects the Chinese view that the human rights dialogue is designed to help the Government of Canada respond to Canadian citizens' concerns about human rights in China. "They do not feel that China derives any benefit from participating in the human rights dialogue."

Bryon Wilfert believes that the means proposed by China is "completely unacceptable." Human rights is a matter of principle.

Alex Neve, the Secretary General of the Canadian Branch of Amnesty International, also believes that it is unacceptable. "Human rights will never have a price." He points out, this should not be about the "degree of friendship" between Canada and China, but is about the two sides taking objective measures to improve China's human rights.

The House of Commons Human Rights Subcommittee has already adopted a report on China's human rights. One of its purposes is to examine the Canada-China Human Rights Dialogue. It is presently slated to be further reviewed by the Foreign Affairs Committee.

The Singtao Daily News has learnt that this secret report recommends suspending the Canada-China Human Rights Dialogue until major changes are made in it. The Foreign Affairs Committee has reviewed this report in-camera in one session, but has not put this report back on its agenda since.

Information from a source close to the Committee indicates that officials representing the Government had taken the Standing Committee as a rubber stamp and had expected a rapid adoption of the report. But members of opposition parties opposed acting in haste because the 19 recommendations of the report touch on sensitive areas. There is also information suggesting that some members and Party supporters hold views at odds with those of the Human Rights Subcommittee.

Looking at the current Parliamentary agenda, it is unlikely that the Committee will be able to review the China human rights report until Parliament meets again in the fall.

Alex Neve characterized the Foreign Affairs Committee's actions as extremely disappointing. The Committee should immediately make public the report.

For Chinese original of this text see: Please advise me of any errors in the above translation.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Prime Minister's Comments on China at G-8

G8 summit ends in finger pointing
Andrew Mayeda, CanWest News Service
Published: Friday, June 08, 2007

. . .

On the final day of the three-day summit, Harper also met with Chinese President Hu Jintao. Afterwards, he warned that, as China's power grows, the country will come under "increasing pressure" from the international community on issues such as democracy and human rights.
"As it grows in importance and wealth, it will face increasing pressure from the world community on issues of democratic development and human rights, on issues like climate change and environmental protection, and on issues of corporate social responsibility, in particular the responsibilities of Chinese enterprises and commercial activities in the Third World," Harper warned.
China is not a member of the G8 but, as a major developing country, it was invited to attend, along with India, Brazil, Mexico and South Africa.
Harper reported from his bilateral meeting that he emphasized the need to "grow and deepen" the ties between the two countries, but that did not stop him "from aggressively and appropriately raising very legitimate concerns."
Next year's summer Olympics in Beijing will be a test of China's standing on the world stage, predicted Harper.
"When you open your country to the world that way and ask every television camera in the world to come in, I think it would be in your own self-interest to make that image as positive as it can be."
In Ottawa, China's ambassador to Canada, Lu Shumin, said his government is open to continuing a dialogue with Canadian officials to discuss human rights. "I still believe the relations between China and Canada are basically moving forward," Lu told a news conference.
Harper's remarks in Germany came a day after he reproached fellow G8 leader Vladimir Putin for being unwilling to accept criticism about democratic reform and human rights in Russia.
The prime minister also ruffled feathers in Beijing last fall when he pressed China on its human-rights record. He vowed that Canada would not "sell out" its beliefs in democracy, freedom and human rights to the "almighty dollar."

Taken from

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Very Insightful Article About the Nature of the Chinese Stock Market

This is an article from the International Herald Tribune openly available at

Communist capitalists
By Philip Bowring
Tuesday, June 12, 2007

HONG KONG: Some of the reasons why the Chinese stock market continues to defy both gravity and the half-hearted efforts of the government to cool it are normal and obvious. But there is another reason that says a lot about a particularly Chinese situation: the relationship between Communist party power and wealth accumulation.
The normal ingredients are a combination of high household savings, low real interest rates and buoyant corporate profits. The nation is awash in cash, in part the domestic counterpart of its trillion dollars of foreign exchange reserves.
Add to this fuel the Chinese love of gambling and the novelty of stock markets, and one has the same combination of circumstances that created mega stock booms in Hong Kong in the early 1970s and in Taiwan in the late 1980s.
But China has an additional ingredient, one that partly explains why the government is ambivalent towards the boom, which has seen stock prices double in six months and price-earnings ratios reach the stratosphere.
For every speech by a mainland official urging caution and for every small dampening measure ranging from taxes on share transactions to increases in bank reserve requirement, there is a speech from another official suggesting that the market buoyancy simply reflects the strength of the economy and the promise of the future.
Of course there are officials who fear that a sudden market collapse could cause unrest among the millions of new small investors who have rushed to take part in this modern form of alchemy, aiming to turn low yielding bank deposits into quick returns on stocks. Although in other countries Chinese have ascribed their stock market losses to bad luck rather than bad government, there is just a chance that the mainland could be different.
The main reason is that the stock market has become the quickest way for officials themselves, as insiders, to get rich quick - and to do so legally.
Even the normally very discreet World Bank recently noted the losses to public coffers resulting from the underpricing of initial public offerings of Chinese shares.
Billions of yuan which might have been collected from the state's sale of shares and put to use improving health and education for the masses had, by implication, ended up in the pockets of those who got first crack at the undervalued shares.
Of course, every company listing on every exchange wants its shares to go to a premium when trading begins. China also had reason to want to spread acceptance of the stock market as a place for investment, as a proper location for household savings. It needs a popular market if it is to continue to sell down its stakes and gradually privatize the economy.
However, there is another reason why the China Securities Regulatory Commission, which oversees the markets, and officials in general, like to see underpricing: The people who mainly benefits are the insiders, the directors, managers, underwriters and other insiders who are favored with share allotments and, if necessary, provided with cheap loans with which to acquire stock.
The absolute loser is the public; the relative loser is the small investor who cannot get stock at the IPO and must buy at a higher price in the secondary market.
The way it works for dozens of relatively small mainland listings has been seen on a grand scale with listings of major mainland enterprises in Hong Kong.
In addition to well-placed mainlanders themselves, very large blocks of stock are first offered to local tycoons and their companies. These placements to anchor investors help ensure the success of the offering, even though the price has already been pitched at a level which is most likely to ensure success. The net result is that relatively few shares are available for the public. One consequence there is a massive oversubscription leading to a stampede for stock when trading begins.
Even though the anchor investors and some of the insiders may be locked in for a while, they are still in a position to make huge profits by virtue of their connections. The investment banks are also huge winners. The listing companies also benefit from interest earned on the oversubscriptions, which have run into billions of dollars. The losers again: the state and the small investors who couldn't get allotments and had to bid up stock in the secondary market.
The listing of mainland companies is in principle beneficial for the economy and corporate governance. But the way it happens is more reminiscent of the Russian version of privatization than of that practiced in established capitalist economies.
Tens of thousands of party officials and company managers are still waiting for their chance to make money from an IPO. So the leadership is nervous about any measure which might kill the goose laying golden eggs for officialdom

Cross-Cultural "Truth" in Socialization of Children by Bedtime Stories

After I arrived here in Kunming last month, I found that my 3 year-old son, Geoffrey, who has been here since January, has ceased to speak in English. When he left Canada he spoke nothing but fluent and unaccented English. Now he speaks exclusively in rapid Yunnan-accented Mandarin sounding exactly like his classmates in the local kindergarten. I find this unexpected development somewhat disconcerting (albeit something of a linguistic marvel). So with a view to turning the situation around, I make a point of speaking to him in English. After an initial period of confusion he evidently he still comprehends English at least, thank God. But he still responds to me in Chinese. Anyway I sure hope he starts producing English in response soon. Geoffrey is scheduled to enter junior kindergarten at Oakridge School in St. Catharines in September. I will not be too happy if he is put into an English As A Second Language stream! Following along the same logic, I have been reading to him in English too. We don't have any English-language story books here, so my method is to do a simultaneous interpretation into English of the Chinese text, trying my best to make it sound as if the story book was actually written in English. It is a bit of stretch for my linguistic talents to do it smoothly without pauses as I process the text, and to not simply render Chinese expressions into a machine translation-like English rendering. The upshot is that as Geoffrey and I read through the little illustrated books my brain is so preoccupied with the interpreting of the text from one language to the other that I don't have enough left over consciousness to pay much attention to the content of the story as such . Turns out I may have to re-think this "clever" approach to turning Chinese story books into English ones.

The other day, I cracked open one of Geoffrey's little books and we read "The Little Grey Mouse's Cake" (hui xiaoshude gaodian). The little grey mouse's cake did not taste nice as he made it with salt instead of sugar. The lesson of the story is that one should pay attention to detail in all things. So far so good. Next was "The Little Bear Who Loved to Eat Candies" (ai chi tangguode xiaoxiong). Here is the full text in my English rendering: "Dudu, the little bear just loved to eat candies. But he had bad habits: he did not like to brush his teeth, and after eating candies he wouldn't rinse out his mouth. One day, Mummy Bear had to go out to do some shopping. As she left, she said to Dudu, "Be a good boy while I am out and don't eat any candies!" Dudu said, "I won't Mummy." But he didn't really mean it. Actually he was happy he was being left alone. He thought to himself, "With Mummy out of the house, I can really have a go at those candies." As soon as his Mummy was gone he opened a big tin box full of candies and started stuffing them into his mouth. It wasn't long before the big tin box was completely empty. He had eaten the lot! Suddenly, Dudu's teeth started to ache. He cried out "Oh no! My teeth hurt really bad! It hurts really bad!" It hurt so much that he fell to the ground writhing in pain. When Mummy finally got home and saw Dudu in such pain, she rushed him to hospital. Dudu was weeping "Mummy, Mummy my whole face is swelling up! It hurts so much!" Mummy answered him sternly "That's what you get when you don't do what Mummy tells you!" Dr. Rhinoceros examined Dudu's teeth and said "It looks like you have a cavity! We'll have to pull that tooth right out!" From that day on, Dudu no longer craved candies to eat. Moreover he brushed his teeth every day. And his teeth never hurt ever again."

After I had finished the story with a hearty "The end!" my mind caught up with the substantive content of what I had just read to Geoffrey. I was rather horrified by the fact that I had given the boy an untruthful impression of the potential consequences of eating a box of candy. After all, throughout my childhood my friends and myself had eaten the equivalent of a tin box full of sweets Hallowe'en after Hallowe'en and to my knowledge none of us ever had to be rushed to hospital for painful emergency dental surgery, although mild tummy aches the next day were not uncommon. So my Canadian parenting inclination would be to warn a child: "If you eat that entire box of sweets, you will probably get a tummy ache and you will be sorry afterwards." But not: "If you eat that entire box of sweets your teeth will ache to the extent that you will collapse to the floor writhing in pain, that your face will swell up to enormous size and you will have to be rushed to the hospital in excruciating discomfort and your teeth will be immediately extracted (evidently without anesthetic)."

But "The Little Bear Who Loved to Eat Candies" story did appear to have considerable impact on Geoffrey who actually was having tooth brushing "issues." After he arrived in China a few months ago, he refused to brush his teeth with the local toothpaste claiming the flavour of the toothpaste was too "spicy." So when I came to join my family here, I brought some milder tasting children's toothpaste from Canada. But he was still reluctant to brush. But the evening after I read him "The Little Bear Who Loved to Eat Candies" he brushed his teeth with some vigour, not once, but twice before going to bed, much to his Mother's delight!

At the end of the "The Little Bear Who Loved to Eat Candies" story there is a note in different font entitled: "Mummy, Explain the Story to Your Child this Way:" It says: "All children like to eat candies. But you should never eat too many at once. We should learn the lesson the little bear's story and get into the habit of rinsing out out mouths after eating. And we should make a habit of brushing our teeth every day. That is the way to make sure that food does not stay stuck in our teeth so as to prevent cavities."

Certainly Chinese culture is not the only one to menace children with exaggerated consequences should they misbehave as a normal socialization technique. But whether this also socializes adults to feel in general that it is morally acceptable to bend the truth in the interest of some greater good is something of an open question for me. Although I am happy that Geoffrey now brushes his teeth properly, I find "The Little Bear Who Loved to Eat Candies" a troubling children's story.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Question for my francophone friends from Quebec

While here in Yunnan, I have been reading Ramsay Cook's new book The Teeth of Time: Remembering Pierre Elliott Trudeau. On page 94 he quotes Jean Le Moyne (1913-96) who wrote in 1960: "Mon héritage français, je veux le conserver, mais je veux autant garder mon bien anglais et aller au bout de mon invention américaine. Il me faut tout ça pour faire l'homme total." I was quite taken with this idea, albeit perhaps rather obvious, perhaps archaic now. I wonder what my francophone friends from Quebec think about it?

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Fragment from Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs and International Development Meeting of May 10, 2007

Mrs. Vivian Barbot (Papineau, BQ):
Do we have a report on that; on human rights in China?


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The Chair:


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Mrs. Vivian Barbot:
I've never seen it.


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Mr. Deepak Obhrai:
Now we can have coffee.

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The Chair:
No, we can't have coffee.

This is the part of committee business, unfortunately, that a chair does not like doing, but again, here is the problem: We have postponed a committee report on China to the 31st, and now it has been leaked, or parts of it have been leaked. It's quoted in The Globe and Mail today. They quote one member from the subcommittee.

Again, as I look around this table, most of you have a great deal of parliamentary experience, and you know that when reporters phone you on a report that has not been tabled we have no comment. We don't talk about the recommendations. We don't talk about the direction in which this report is going. We don't talk about what the government's response may be to this report. We don't talk about anything, because it's still not public.

Perhaps I'm not speaking to the group that I should be. Maybe I should be speaking to the subcommittee. But it is not right; it is not ethically right to start leaking these reports. I know people love to talk to reporters and they like to see their name in the paper, but in all fairness, until every individual of the committee has the opportunity to respond to this report, I would ask that you not speak to reporters. All right? So that's on the record.

Mr. Wilfert, then Mr. Goldring.


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Hon. Bryon Wilfert (Richmond Hill, Lib.):
I would concur, Mr. Chairman, that it's an embargoed report, it's confidential, and there should be no discussion whatsoever. Beyond that, I think we need to be very clear that, at any time, this obviously causes problems for all of us. It has already caused problems, because certain people now want to know more since it's out there.

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The Chair:

Mr. Goldring, and then we will go to our second hour.

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Mr. Peter Goldring (Edmonton East, CPC):
If it can be determined who.... The report really isn't that clear. It mentions one person, and if that one person wants to acknowledge it, that's fine, but the report also says "MPs", plural. If it was plural, then it was more than one.

At what point do you carry this forward? You have rules. You have breach of parliamentary privilege. You have things set in place. There's a reason to have the confidentiality, and this goes to the heart of the other reports we might be asking for, and information on prisoners and other things. If we intend to try to keep confidence in a committee and we don't have the rules and we don't reinforce the rules, then we have nothing.

Is this something that should be brought up as a point of parliamentary privilege to determine?

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The Chair:
That's a good question.

I guess why I'm trying to chastise each one of us is so that, hopefully, each party will take the message back to their people.

We had a case in subcommittee of an in camera meeting where there was a press release given on the in camera meeting.

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Mr. Peter Goldring:
Well, clearly, this one person mentioned should be questioned very directly--clearly. But the intimation of plural being more means that there should be more.

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The Chair:
All right.

Mr. Patry, a final word.

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Mr. Bernard Patry:
I just want to go back to Mr. Goldring.

Mr. Goldring, when you talk about MPs, with an "s", it's the title, and a title is not the text from the person. This is what that person could have said: MPs. That's why they say MPs with an "s".

Now, I've been on this committee for the past 14 years, and it has never occurred. All the members of this committee, the main committee of foreign affairs, are great about this. There was no leaking. I trust all my members. Nobody from our committee has done these things.

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The Chair:
And that's why I said that hopefully we can take it back to other people.

That report has been around for some time. It's been with our staffers. It's been with the subcommittee. Each one of us makes sure that we keep the integrity of this thing going.

We will suspend for one minute, and then we will come back in camera.

[Proceedings continue in camera]