Melinda Liu

Stories by Melinda Liu

  • ROLL OVER, KIM IL SUNG

    The Buick assembly-line tour was not the most startling part of Kim Jong Il's unannounced trip to Shanghai last week. After all, the shock-haired North Korean leader has a well-known love for big, fancy cars. But what would the late dictator Kim Il Sung have said about his son's enthusiastic visit to the Shanghai Stock Exchange? For that matter, what would the son himself have once said? The last time he traveled to Shanghai, back in 1983, young Kim went home loudly scandalized by the "revisionism" he had seen--and those were the days when Deng Xiaoping's capitalist reforms had barely begun. This time Kim brought along a whole entourage of top officials for the express purpose of emulating China's success.No one can be sure that North Korea's secretive leader will follow Deng's reformist path. But some of the sharpest analysts in Beijing and Seoul are convinced he's going to try. Last week South Korea's president, Kim Dae Jung, publicly remarked that North Korea "seems to aim at...
  • 'HIGH NOON' FOR WAHID

    Indonesia's president Abdurrahman Wahid, who is nearly blind, moves among shadows. But in his mind, Wahid likes to think of high noon, when the sun shines white-hot, and it's easier for him to sense shapes and colors, especially blue. The American film "High Noon" happens to be one of his favorite movies; he can rattle on about its stars, its director, even its theme song. "Once someone made a video documentary about Indonesia and wanted to call it 'High Noon in Jakarta'," recalled Wahid after he took a recent predawn walk around the palace grounds, attended by nine aides, doctors and bodyguards. "High noon was supposed to be my confrontation with Wiranto," he says. He's referring to one of the most decisive moments in his 15-month-old government--when he sacked armed-forces chief General Wiranto to show his commitment to military reform. The 60-year-old president chuckles now about that high-stakes episode, but says: "For me that wasn't a movie, it was real life."Wahid has got...
  • Buying A Better Army

    At a recent aerospace exposition in the southern Chinese city of Zhuhai, the stars of the show were Russian. Military personnel and businessmen from Russia attended the exposition in force. Russian pilots drew the loudest applause for their aerial acrobatics. Russian arms peddlers drew the most visitors to their booths. Russian brass sometimes outnumbered their Chinese hosts at the banquets and vodka-soaked happy hours that punctuated the 10-day aerofest. "We've brought our best [jet] fighters and our best pilots to the air show," bragged Col. Aleksandr Ermolenko, trainer for the world-renowned Russian Knights, Moscow's jet-flying team. That wasn't exactly true. The Russians didn't take their most advanced weaponry to China. For weeks Russian generals had debated whether to allow a cutting-edge MiG-31 interceptor to be flown to Zhuhai. In the end Moscow's Defense Ministry decided against the idea. Instead, it sent a miniature dummy of the jet to the exhibition, accompanied by a...
  • Out Into The Open

    Li Suijun, a factory worker in Henan province, didn't know what "HIV positive" meant when he heard his son's diagnosis in 1996. "I was sad and angry, sad and angry," he says. His neighbors taunted him. "Just kill the kid!" one of them muttered in passing on the street. Li was fired from his job, but he did not meekly accept the shame that usually goes along with HIV status in China. Instead, he and his wife launched what at first seemed a quixotic crusade, seeking financial redress from Xinye Hospital in the city of Nanyang, where their son, Li Ning, got a tainted blood transfusion. For years courts refused to hear the case, but father Li persevered, even managing to get a peek at the hospital's blood-donor records. Finally, the family was offered a settlement of $59,000--equivalent to 40 years of their former income. So far, Li has received only a quarter of the money and is lobbying for the rest. But the family's startling victory has made Li Ning, now 9, a celebrity. "He's become...
  • Facing A Demon

    Li Suijun, a chemical factory worker in Nanyang city, Henan province, didn't even know what "HIV positive" meant when he heard his son's grim diagnosis in 1996. Li soon found out. Neighbors taunted him, and one cruelly suggested a way to solve his family problem: "Just kill the kid!" he muttered as Li went for a late-night walk. Li was fired from his job. "I was sad and angry," Li told NEWSWEEK before bursting into tears. Angry enough to confront the social ostracism--and government indifference-- that most HIV patients and their families face in China. He and his wife launched what at first seemed a quixotic crusade--seeking financial redress from the Xinye People's Hospital where their five-year-old son, Li Ning, got a tainted blood transfusion. Confronting local and provincial governments was a Kafkaesque nightmare. Courts downplayed the case--and for years refused to hear the family's petition. Li persevered and managed to peek at the hospital's blood-bank donor records--before...
  • Erotica: From Pig Sty To Museum Piece

    The classic works of erotica had been hidden away from the Chinese public for decades before they surfaced last month at the remote Xindu County museum. Drawn on brick panels for the tomb of a wealthy man during the Eastern Han (A.D. 23-220), they depict a menage a trois in an idyllic landscape dotted with mulberry trees and wild monkeys. It's not clear whether the two panels reflect scenes from the gentleman's daily life or his dreams for the afterlife, says Xindu museum deputy director Zhang Yuxin. Either way, says Zhang, the panels are a historically important record of ancient Taoist beliefs, including the notion "that having sex, especially in the wilderness, was a way to cultivate oneself and prolong one's life."How tastes change. By the time the panels were excavated four to five decades ago, Chairman Mao had banned traditional erotica as pornography. During his Cultural Revolution the Red Guards burned such works in bonfires. The only reason the panels survived was that a...
  • A Wto Rescue Mission

    Some Chinese use a slang phrase to describe the fierce foreign competition Beijing will face after joining the World Trade Organization: "The tiger is coming," they say. Authorities say they'll make painful but necessary economic reforms to join the WTO. The question is, when? China seemed well on its way toward accession into the organization this year. But last month talks in Geneva to hammer out the final details surprisingly stalled. There were reports that Beijing was backing away from previous concessions--and unwilling to stipulate how it would enforce international trade rules and its own trade reforms.To gain entry into the WTO, China's leaders are taking a risky step. The country must alter many of its business and trading practices. That means lowering tariffs on foreign goods and loosening tight restrictions on investments in key industries, such as telecommunications and financial services. Those changes will send shock waves through the economy. Tens of millions of...
  • A First For China

    For Gao Xingjian, winning the Nobel Prize will not make up for all the years Beijing has shunned his writing. But it certainly helps. Last week the little-known 60-year-old novelist and dramatist became the first Chinese-born writer to win the award for literature. The Swedish Academy praised his "bitter insights and linguistic ingenuity" in work that explores "the struggle of the individual" against the masses. From his Paris home, a stunned Gao fielded congratulatory calls and interview requests. "At first I was just surprised, but I am beginning to realize what the prize means," he told NEWSWEEK by telephone. "I am delighted."Not so Beijing. A Foreign Ministry spokesman downplayed Gao's selection and accused the Nobel committee of using the award for "ulterior political motives." That's because the government has long considered the intellectual Gao a political dissident. He first came under scrutiny during the Cultural Revolution, when he spent six years being "re-educated" in a...
  • A Change Of Tune?

    An old man like Jiang Zemin can only shake his head at how everything has changed. When he was a kid, public singing could get you arrested, except for a few politically correct anthems like "Without the Communist Party There Would Be No New China" and "The East Is Red" ("The east is red! The sun is rising! China has produced Mao Zedong!"). In the 1980s, eager music lovers listened raptly to tapes of syrupy Cantonese love songs, often smuggled in from Hong Kong, stuff like "This Pair of Eyes Is Looking at You" ("You know I can't, I can't, I can't take my eyes off you. I can't take my eyes off you, you, you, you, you, you... "). But now? The air is filled with a baffling jumble of formerly forbidden sounds, from disco to punk rock. Above it floats the Zen-like drone of techno, a sound so ku (cool) and new that the only place most Chinese can get it is on the Internet.Music is the least of it. The really remarkable change is so deep in China's cultural fabric that a foreign visitor...
  • A Natural Advantage?

    Ma Junren's athletes did whatever it took to win. In the early 1990s they rewrote the women's track and field record book--and raised suspicions that their successes were fueled by illegal performance-boosting drugs. Not at all, said the flamboyant Ma. His runners won thanks to his coaching methods: a grueling high-altitude training regimen and a bizarre diet that included caterpillar fungus and a daily bowl of turtle's blood and herbs. Once he even lopped off a turtle's head, poured its blood into porcelain cups and had his track stars quaff down the liquid in front of German TV cameras.Ma's showmanship did little to dispel Beijing's reputation as the biggest state sponsor of doping since East German officials gave steroids to athletes without telling them. Still, Chinese officials say they are determined to clean up their country's image. What's at stake: national glory at the upcoming Sydney Olympics and--more important--Beijing's bid to host the 2008 Games. Chinese officials say...
  • Chinese Authorities Detain A Daring Poet

    Bei Ling was fascinated with China's dissidents and the literary underground. The Boston-based poet and critic, 40, who left Beijing in 1988, cultivated controversial figures such as writer Liu Xiaobo and exile Wang Dan; both had spent time in jail for helping lead the 1989 democracy movement. Bei Ling laced his literary journal, Tendency, which is sold in Taiwan and Hong Kong, with pro-democracy writings. During a visit to Beijing early this year, Bei Ling seemed to think the government had become less repressive. He boasted about visiting Liu's home: "Each time I go, the police are standing outside. But what can they do?" he said. "Times have changed, and the situation has loosened up."Not as much as he thought. Bei Ling, who is a U.S. permanent resident, traveled to Beijing in late May. On Aug. 11 he planned to attend a cultural forum. Bei Ling never showed up. He was detained by police, arrest-ed and held incommunicado in Qinghe Detention Center. Last Thursday his brother Huang...
  • Into Uncharted Waters

    The top brass made sure this would be no ordinary shore leave. The 350 sailors on the USS Chancellorsville got strict orders last week before setting foot in the Chinese port of Qingdao. No public drunkenness. No fighting. And hands off the local women--including the ones at neighborhood barbershops where the service includes "special massages."Rowdiness was the last thing anyone wanted. Since Beijing opened its doors in the 1980s, the U.S. Navy has made nine port calls--four of them to Qingdao. But the guided-missile cruiser's visit was the first since NATO mistakenly bombed China's Belgrade embassy in May 1999 during the Kosovo war. Many Chinese still think the attack was no accident. And lately, tensions have worsened over issues such as the theater missile defense (TMD) program. The U.S. plan, conceived partly in response to China's rising military profile, would create an antimissile system to protect American troops and allies in northern Asia. Beijing, lagging badly in high...
  • The Enemy With No Name

    It wasn't entirely a warm welcome. As U.S. Secretary of Defense William Cohen kicked off his China trip last week, a headline in the state-run China Daily screamed, U.S. a threat to world peace. Cohen tried to tell military personnel at China's National Defense University that it is "simply untrue" to portray the United States as a "hegemon" determined to "contain China." Still, Beijing's press bad-mouthed everything from Washington's proposed National Missile Defense system (NMD) to American arms sales to Taiwan. The People's Liberation Army Daily called NMD "a rat scurrying across the street." It questioned why--despite the recent lessening of tensions between the Koreas--some 37,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea "just linger there and refuse to go home... They are an obstacle to peace."Peace in Northeast Asia hinges increasingly on Sino-U.S. relations. Bilateral ties are currently at a tricky juncture. Both sides intermittently pay lip service to the idea of a "strategic...
  • Dreams As Big As The West

    A vicious sandstorm is scouring the city of Xining, on the southern outskirts of the Gobi Desert. Inside his office, sheltered from the blasting wind, Ge Jianbei is daydreaming of another desert, halfway around the world from Qinghai province and the grimy desolation of its capital. On a recent trip overseas, the deputy head of Xining's Foreign Trade Bureau saw Nevada and fell in love with the place. The parched landscape reminded him of the Gobi--while the dazzling extravagance of Las Vegas reminded him of nothing he had ever seen.The blend of the familiar and the fantastic got Ge thinking. Back home, he and his colleagues drew up a proposal to transform Xining. If recent rumors pay off and Beijing decides to legalize gambling in some parts of China, Ge intends to be where the action is. He says an American company has already promised him it would put up $120 million for casinos and horse-racing facilities. Ge is aching for the opportunity: "I want to make Xining the Las Vegas of...
  • Trouble In 'Turkestan'

    The back alleys of Kashgar are a medieval warren straight out of the tales of Tamerlane. In the tree-shaded courtyards of the desert oasis in Xinjiang province, some 200 kilometers from the Afghan border, Uighur women wearing traditional headscarves hand-sew sequins onto green velvet caps. But just around the corner is an abrupt reminder of the here-and-now. Posted on the sun-baked brick wall outside a police post are mug shots of nearly 20 young Uighur fugitives, wanted for such crimes as arson and murder. "Actually they're terrorists," says a Kashgari Uighur, who glances briefly at the pictures before walking away. "Some are separatists, and some are just unhappy with the government. It's hard to keep young Uighurs happy these days."And getting harder. If China ever fragments along ethnic lines, the unraveling would likely start in Xinjiang--a far-western province that borders Afghanistan, Pakistan and three post-Soviet central-Asian states. Two fifths of Xinjiang's 16 million...
  • Bound For 'Paradise'

    In Fuzhou, China, nightclub boss Chen Kai, 38, has achieved what he says "everyone here dreams about." In 1990 he slipped into America and made a small fortune working in several restaurants. After spending three years in the United States, Chen returned to Fujian province and, with three partners, opened a glitzy karaoke club called Kaixuan. With his diamond-encrusted watch and movie-star good looks, Chen admits he's "something of a role model" for locals. Inside the club, customers are surrounded by scantily clad hostesses. Outside, Chen calls the Dover tragedy "awful," but he doesn't have much time to chat: patrons are arriving in black Lexus limousines.High-flying success stories like Chen's fuel Fujian's booming emigration culture. The bustling coastal region is a breeding ground for China's "human snakes." Fujian has been sending residents off to the West for more than a century. Contrary to conventional wisdom, the migrants are seldom poor and desperate. Zhao Hua, a 34-year...
  • The View From China

    Listen: that sound you hear coming out of Beijing is a deep sigh of relief. Like practically everybody, China's leaders have been fretting over North Korea. Beijing's policy has been to hope for the best by subsidizing Kim Jong Il's weak regime with food and fuel, and prepare for the worst, the potential implosion of its communist ally. China's military even planned a number of huge refugee "reception centers"--each capable of accommodating as many as 100,000 migrants--in the event desperate North Koreans began streaming across the border into China's own "rust belt." President Jiang Zemin has personally met with top South Korean intelligence officials for briefings, NEWSWEEK has learned. "They presumably compared notes on what they each know about the North--and what to do if it collapsed," says Bob Manning, a Korea expert with the Council on Foreign Relations. "China is a major player on the peninsula, and it has a helluva lot at stake."In PR terms at least, Beijing's gamble on...
  • Scars No One Sees

    As North and South Korea head for their first summit in half a century, the peninsula's divided families are not the only ones longing for a sense of closure. For thousands of other individuals the war is not yet entirely over. These are the stories of three veterans of the long struggle:THE SEARCHER. Seventy-year-old Bob Dumas is pumped. Any day now, the Connecticut man is sure he will finally get solid information on his long-lost younger brother. The last positive sighting of U.S. Army Cpl. Roger Dumas was in August 1953, shortly after the signing of the armistice, when two Chinese guards hauled their American prisoner away from a Korean border crossing. The Pentagon has presumed Roger dead since 1954. Even so, Bob has always refused to believe it without hard evidence. He has written thousands of letters to anyone who might help him find Roger. He tried again last month, sending yet another appeal to the Army Casualty Office, with copies to two senators and the secretary of...
  • The Last Casualties

    It was the summer of 1953.After three years of brutal fighting, the Korean War had ended in an edgy truce. As the troops stood down, prisoners of war were exchanged. U.S. Army Cpl. Roger Armand Dumas, 22, almost made it to freedom. A POW since November 1950, he was brought to a repatriation point along the front line. Then, as other American prisoners were being handed over, eyewitnesses saw two Chinese guards lead Dumas away. There's been no sign of him since. The Pentagon thinks he may have died in 1954. But his brother, Bob, 70, doesn't believe it. He keeps hounding Washington for news of the missing soldier. And now that the reclusive North Koreans are beginning to crack open their borders to foreign visitors, he's feeling optimistic. "I'll finally be able to travel to Pyongyang, just like I've always wanted to do," he says. "Maybe it's 50 years too late. But then, it's never too late to learn the truth."Korea is the cold-war conflict that hasn't ended yet. It began, a half...
  • Mr. Kim Goes To China

    Kim Jong Il was the oddest kind of ruler, seen everywhere at home but never abroad. Since becoming North Korea's strongman in 1994, Kim had not met a fellow head of state before last week, when he made a secretive three-day visit to Beijing and talked with President Jiang Zemin, Prime Minister Zhu Rongji and other officials. On the insistence of the North Koreans, Beijing disclosed the visit only after it was over, and it was not all diplomacy. Once famous for his alleged love of wine, women and the movie life (he once had his agents kidnap a South Korean film director and his actress wife, just to get a bit closer), Kim confided to his bemused Chinese hosts, "Now I've quit smoking and I drink only a little wine."Has Kim Jong Il, 58, really changed? His Chinese hosts were clad in Western business suits, but Kim appeared to have stepped out of the 1960's. He wore an ill-fitting gray Mao suit and a lapel badge bearing the likeness of his late father, "Great Leader" Kim Il Sung. Yet...
  • Getting Hitched

    At times last week, "One China" almost seemed like reality in the tiny mainland village of Meizhou on China's coast. Every day thousands of religious believers jammed into an incense-choked temple to bow before the Taoist deity Mazu, Goddess of the Sea. Mainland and Taiwanese fishermen alike revere Mazu, and pilgrims from both sides of the Taiwan Strait were mingling to celebrate her 1,040th birthday. In a nearby harbor, four white fishing boats from Taiwan--clearly flying their national flag--had defied a Taipei ban on direct travel by steaming straight across the narrow straits for the festival. Most of the thousands of Taiwanese visitors had come the long way from Taiwan: via Hong Kong. One pilgrim, who gave only his surname Li, dreamed of traveling directly to Meizhou, in Fujian province, after Chen Shui-bian is sworn in as Taiwan's president this week. "One day the sky will be filled with airplanes flying directly between Taiwan and the mainland," said Li amid a deafening...
  • In China, A Different Kind Of 'Trust' Problem

    Last January, when Chinese officials began to enforce a rule to make software companies register encryption products, the information-technology industry worried. But nobody worried more than Microsoft, which was gearing up to launch Windows 2000 in China. The Chinese regulations suggested that Win2K might be banned. But just days before the March 20 launch, China suddenly announced it would soften the rules. Microsoft got the green light.China's relationship with Microsoft is emblematic of its relationship with America--sweet and sour. Mainland authorities know they need Microsoft if they hope to thrive in the information age. Yet they fear becoming overly dependent on the company. So the government has urged the development of alternatives, like Red Flag Linux. Unlike Windows, Linux is an open-source operating system--which means its programming isn't hidden. China (and developers around the world) like that.For the moment, China's market still smiles on Gates. Over 90 percent of...
  • A Delicate Balance

    China's campuses were abuzz last week. As soon as Taipei's election results flashed through cyberspace, student activists began printing banners and organizing protests to condemn Taiwan separatism. In Sichuan, thousands of Chongqing University students took to the streets, pleading that President Jiang Zemin "send in the PLA... to wipe out Taiwan splittists!" A similar protest erupted in the city of Changchun. Communist Party commissars scurried to cool the nationalist fervor. "Jiang doesn't want a repeat of what happened last May," when howling protesters besieged the U.S. diplomatic buildings after NATO's bombing of the Chinese Embassy, says one Beijing scholar. "It's a very sensitive moment."Jiang is on the hot seat. Before Taiwan's polls, his party's propaganda howled that a Chen victory "means war." Beijing had hoped to scare Taiwan, but Jiang is now trying to step back from the brink. Many Chinese took the rhetoric seriously, especially military hard-liners and nationalistic...
  • Beijing's Worst Nightmare

    Talk about a strategy that backfired. The propaganda campaign was intended to scare Taiwanese voters away from opposition candidate Chen Shui-bian. Beijing's leaders and experts alike issued doomsday threats. As Chen's victory seemed ever nearer, Beijing's panic broke out into the open. Victory for Chen, a panel of scholars warned, could force China to accelerate its timetable for completing reunification of Taiwan with the motherland. People's Liberation Army commentators painted Chen as a sweet-tongued liar. China's reformist Prime Minister Zhu Rongji yelled and gestured angrily as he laid out Beijing's "bottom line"--no independence for Taiwan--just before the island's voters headed to the polls. Raising his voice dramatically in a press conference, Zhu warned Taiwan: "Don't vote on impulse. You might not get another opportunity to regret."Why is Beijing so scared of Taiwan's new president? As head of the erstwhile opposition Democratic Progressive Party, Chen represents a new...
  • Cyber Rattling

    This week the international media will descend on a concrete-walled police-academy auditorium nestled in the suburban hills outside Taipei. It's the digital nerve center for the Taiwan Election Commission--and beginning Saturday, millions of votes for Taiwan's next president will be tallied there. But the election won't be the only competition of interest to the Taipei government. Behind the scenes another battle may be raging--this one between Taiwanese defense-ministry computer specialists (stationed at five command centers around the island) and "patriotic" mainland saboteurs. Taiwan is concerned that "red hackers," as they call themselves, could try to disrupt the island's computer networks--and spoil the election. Hunched over high-speed terminals, Taiwan's cyberwatchdogs will be searching for the Internet equivalent of "Reds under the bed." They'll scrutinize incoming Internet data packets for possible trouble--e-mail "bombs," viruses and clandestine Chinese attempts to crack...
  • Palace Intrigues

    For those who are into Pekingology, President Jiang Zemin's recent bedside reading has provided rich material for speculation. According to Jiang watchers in Beijing's diplomatic community, the president was stunned to hear of Boris Yeltsin's New Year's Eve resignation. The Russian leader had just been in Beijing, bearhugging with the Chinese leaders and commiserating over the NATO-led war in Kosovo. Diplomats think the resignation was such a shock to Jiang that it set off a bout of soul-searching. The president reportedly asked his aides to bring him books on Russia, including David Remnick's "Lenin's Tomb," which chronicles the chaos that led to the fall of the Soviet Union. The book's implication: leaders who cling to power too long jeopardize their legacies. Yeltsin's resignation "got Jiang ruminating about his place in history," says one Western diplomat in Beijing. That, he adds, helped Jiang decide to find a way "to keep his hand on the throttle."This is the real agenda at...
  • The Politics Of Reincarnation

    At the Gyuto Monastery in the foothills of the Himalayas, a love both familiar and exotic was in the air. Some 60 Tibetan schoolgirls had come to be in the presence of the living Buddha--who, in this case, just happened to be a strikingly handsome 14-year-old boy. The 17th reincarnation of the Karmapa had recently made a daring escape from Chinese-controlled Tibet, and the girls, in a temperate Tibetan sort of way, were flushed with excitement. They sat cross-legged on a cold concrete floor, surrounded by tapestries called tankhas, which portray dramatic stories of Buddhist lore. Sweet incense wafted through the air, and a table was covered with offerings--biscuits, apples, bananas and oranges--for the teen deity who was already part of an eternal legend.A murmur rose as the six-foot Karmapa--dressed in maroon and saffron robes and shadowed by Indian security guards--strode into the hall and sat on a downy, makeshift throne. First the Karmapa politely thanked the few Westerners in...
  • The Day Of The Living Buddhas

    From here to the north, in the east of the land of snow, Is a country where divine thunder spontaneously blazes In a beautiful nomad's place with the sign of a cow...This cryptic note, said to have been found in an old talisman in 1991, led at last to a yak-herding family's encampment in eastern Tibet. The searchers were looking for the 17th Karmapa, the reborn leader of one of Tibetan Buddhism's four main sects. The master's previous embodiment, the 16th Karmapa, had died of cancer in 1981--and his followers had been awaiting his return ever since. The nomadic family's eighth child, a 7-year-old son, was a strange little boy. The nomads said he was fond of vanishing into the mountains by himself, riding on the backs of goats and jackals. On the day of his birth, they recalled, three suns appeared in the sky with an overarching rainbow. People heard the blare of unseen conch shells on all sides, then the music of flutes and cymbals.The searchers still could not rest. Celestial signs...
  • A Buddha Busts Out

    At the Gyuto monastery, in the foothills of the Himalayas, a love both familiar and exotic was in the air. Some 60 Tibetan schoolgirls had come to be in the presence of the living Buddha--who, in this case, just happened to be a strikingly handsome 14-year-old boy. The 17th reincarnation of the Karmapa had recently made a daring escape from Chinese-controlled Tibet, and the girls, in a temperate Tibetan sort of way, were flushed with excitement. They sat cross-legged on a cold concrete floor, surrounded by tapestries called tankhas, which portray dramatic stories of Buddhist lore. Sweet incense wafted through the air, and a table was covered with offerings--biscuits, apples, bananas--for the teen deity who was already part of an eternal legend.A murmur rose as the six-foot Karmapa, dressed in maroon and saffron robes and shadowed by Indian security guards, strode into the hall and sat on a downy, makeshift throne. First the Karmapa politely thanked the few Westerners in the audience...
  • A Catholic Crackdown

    What could be so threatening about an 80-year-old Roman Catholic archbishop that Beijing would need 150 police to arrest him? Two weeks ago, according to the U.S.-based Cardinal Kung Foundation, authorities hauled in John Yang Shudao, who'd previously spent nearly three decades in prison. It was the latest assault in the Communist Party's war against Catholics who refuse to denounce the pope as their supreme authority. At least eight bishops have been detained since August, according to the foundation, a human-rights monitoring group. Dozens of clerics have disappeared and several underground churches have been torched or blown up.There's more here than meets the eye. The detentions coincide with private talks between Beijing and the Vatican. The two sides broke ties in 1951, when mainland Catholics were pressured to renounce the pope and join the state-sanctioned "patriotic" church. The Holy See still has an embassy in Taipei, but last year a Vatican official said the church was...