Melinda Liu

Stories by Melinda Liu

  • Crackdown Cabaret

    FOR THE LAST SEVERAL WEEKS, A GROUP OF CUTTING-EDGE thinkers have packed into a Beijing tearoom to mull over the future of their country. On one recent occasion, some 100 people showed up, including an influential economist, a former political prisoner, an AIDS activist and a prominent dissident. They were drawn by the chance to discuss a new political book, ""The Crisis of China.'' For hours they debated such sensitive issues as political reform, human rights and democracy. ""We intellectuals are like the black crows of society, saying things people don't want to hear,'' said ""Crisis'' editor Li Ming. ""Our biggest crisis is that of the political system!'' One participant complained, ""If we can't even criticize our leaders--not to mention put a president on trial as in America--that means democracy hasn't arrived yet.'' ...
  • The New Rules Of The Road

    IT WAS NOVEMBER 1991, AND I HAD just signed on with Bill Clinton when the news broke: Connie Hanzy, a rock-and-roll groupie from Arkansas, had gone to Penthouse with the claim that Clinton had propositioned her eight years before in a hotel lobby. Hanzy's charge, though flimsy, felt like a mortal threat to our embryonic campaign. I reached the governor on his way to a Texas fund-raiser, but he didn't seem too concerned. Sure, he said, he'd met Hanzy. He even seemed to enjoy retelling the story. They had run into each other in the lobby of the North Little Rock Hilton. Clinton was leaving a speech when Hanzy, who had been sunbathing by the pool, came up to him, flipped down her bikini top and said, ""What do you think of these?'' The governor chuckled in recollection, but Hillary, sitting next to him on the plane, was less amused. ""We have to destroy her story,'' she said. I agreed. ...
  • Candid Cameras

    THE AMBUSH WORKED PERFECTLY. First the reporters from China's hottest TV news-magazine show secretly filmed a price-gouging water-company director fiddling with the meters in Hubei. Then they invited him for a chat in their hotel room. Confronted with evidence, the official offered the reporters a $5,000 bribe to kill the story--a scene they also captured on video. The journalists aired their exposE on national television last November, prompting an investigation of the official. ""The guy didn't know our camera was running and, legally, we didn't have to tell him,'' the producer says proudly. ""After all, it was our hotel room.'' ...
  • Saddam's Dark Threat

    This time the real Iraqi menace is not a campaign of conquest but the growing anxiety that Saddam is building deadly chemical and biological weapons. With America's allies in disarray, President Clinton is weighing whether to strike Saddam and signal merchants of death that the United States will stand up to the new face of war--before toxic terror can make its way home.Ever since Operation Desert Storm, standoffs with Saddam Hussein have played out with a kind of unthreatening predictability. He huffs and puffs; the United States lobs a few cruise missiles into Iraq, or threatens to; the crisis flares--and passes. Americans return to their regularly scheduled programs.But consider a more frightening scenario: determined to avenge his humiliation in the gulf war, enraged by the crushing economic sanctions imposed by the United States and its allies, Saddam decides to make Americans share the suffering of his people. He hires a terrorist cell to launch a biological- or chemical...
  • A Noise In Jiang's Ears

    IT BEGAN, AS POSTSUMMIT PRESS conferences are apt to, with a dry recitation of accords. But what followed tore up the script. For nearly an hour at the White House last week, President Clinton and Chinese President Jiang Zemin created riveting live TV with an unprecedented public exchange on democracy and human rights. Asked if he regretted the Tiananmen Square crackdown, Jiang first read from notes that his government had ""taken necessary measures according to law'' to preserve China's social and political stability. Clinton replied that China's intolerance of political dissent had cost it international respect; human rights, he said, are universal. Jiang undiplomatically jumped back in; ""noninterference'' with China's internal affairs is the only basis for a discussion of human rights in China, he said. Clinton rubbed his temples and drew his hand over his face. On the Tiananmen issue, he said finally, China is ""on the wrong side of history.''""Interesting theater,'' Clinton...
  • It's Gonna Be A Long Week

    THE EDITORIAL IN THE HARVARD Crimson begins, ""He is an evil man, leading a truly evil empire.'' And that was the piece supporting Jiang Zemin's speech at the university on Saturday. A dissenting editorial ran beneath it, under the headline DON'T LET MURDERER SPEAK. But speak he will--on his terms. Jiang will only answer questions submitted two days in advance to a four-person faculty committee. About half the 1,166 seats in the auditorium will go to students via a lottery; the rest have been allotted to bigwigs and China scholars. Ezra Vogel, the director of the Fairbank Center for East Asian Research, who will pose the questions to Jiang, defends the format for the speech and other arrangements, saying they helped persuade Jiang to choose Harvard over several other schools--including Stanford, the University of Michigan and the University of Pennsylvania. ""We have opted for a very high level of security,'' says Vogel, who vows not to pitch any softball questions. On the Monday...
  • Here Comes Jiang

    JIANG ZEMIN IS CURSED BY HIS cue cards. Under their spell he sounds like the Soviet-trained engineer that he is--and remarkably unlike the CEO of China Inc., Asia's most dynamic country. Jiang recited from notes for 35 minutes in Shanghai last week for a group of American visitors, rendering unremarkable, formal answers to prearranged questions on U.S.-China relations, economic reform and the 1989 Tiananmen massacre. The performance seemed especially flat given the timing--two weeks before a watershed summit with Bill Clinton. But when Jiang closed the ""formal session of the interview,'' broke into English and invited his guests to stay on for ""chatting, confidential off the record,'' he loosened up, was more forthcoming. In private, he is a good, if not great, communicator.It's the second Jiang that's on his way to America. The Chinese president plans to dazzle the U.S. people by conjuring up a new, modern China that strives to put Tiananmen in the past, play a leading role in...
  • Playing To The Crowd

    MADELEINE ALBRIGHT DIDN'T hide her disappointment. ""I'm not going to pretend to you that I've accomplished a lot,'' the secretary of state told reporters as she left Israel last week. Despite her trademark strategy of ""public diplomacy,'' the peace process remained as stuck as ever. ...
  • Beijing's New Babysitter

    THERE WERE TWO HAND- overs in Hong Kong last week. Beijing took power over the British colony - and Washington took over as its chief protector. ""You've got to keep watching,'' British Gov. Chris Patten told Secretary of State Madeleine Albright before tearfully taking his leave. ""People expect it,'' said a senior State Department official, ""because of our place in the world.'' With two dozen members of Congress helping create gridlock on the diplomatic circuit during the festivities, the occasion represented nothing less than ""the handover of responsibility for Hong Kong's fate to the U.S.,'' declared Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman Jesse Helms. ...
  • Now It's Cohen Vs. Albright

    THE BALKANS CONFLICT REMAINED deceptively dormant this spring - but there was one skirmish at the White House. At a meeting last month, Secretary of State Madeleine Albright urged Bill Clinton to focus on correcting problems that threaten a return to war should NATO pull its troops out as planned in June 1998. Although the operation has been nearly bloodless, little has been done to safeguard returning refugees and lock up war criminals. But Defense Secretary William Cohen thought U.S. forces should concentrate on heading home, leaving Bosnia for the Europeans to handle. Cohen, a former Republican senator, told Clinton, ""Mr. President, I voted against your Bosnia policy.'' ...
  • Revenge Of The Refugees

    At a Windswept Grave outside Shanghai, villagers still gossip about the day C.H.Tung came home. In 1990, more than four decades after the future of Hong Kong sailed away from the great port city at the age of 12, he returned to msurvey the damage inflicted on his ancestral home under a regime that had tried to destroy everything for which his capitalist family stood. The ancestral tomb had been reduced to a rock heap desecrated by grave robbers (though a family retainer managed to save the moldering bones). The Tung villa in Shanghai was also in decay, festooned with laundry and shared by five families. As he looked at the remains of the old garden, Tung remembered the delights of a happy Shanghai childhood. "Remember how we lit incense to the Earth God here?" he asked one of his sisters. The gods have smiled on Tung ever since. He inherited his father's shipping empire, saved it from bankruptcy and rose to become one of the leading lights of Hong Kong's business society. Now he...
  • The Chill Over China

    IF SOARING EXPORTS WERE THE HOLY grail of Bill Clinton's first-term trade strategy, then Ed McCracken fit nicely into the role of Sir Lancelot. As much as any CEO, McCracken, the chief of Silicon Graphics, personified why the president so eagerly anointed U.S. exporters as instruments of national policy. His company charged into the global marketplace, quadrupling overseas sales of visual-computing equipment from $372 million in 1992 to $1.5 billion last year. And the Republican turned Clinton supporter found himself showered with presidential honors. Clinton awarded McCracken the National Medal of Technology, and made him cochair of his National Information Infrastructure Advisory Council. McCracken, in turn, used his proximity to the president to lobby for high-tech export liberalization, along with other corporate chiefs. In the spring of '94 the administration obliged, throwing the doors wide open to computer and telecom exports that were once mostly denied to "sensitive"...
  • A Message For Beijing

    HIS DETRACTORS CALL HIM "MARTYR Lee." There's something awfully righteous, even spinsterish, about Martin Lee, the leading democratic activist in Hong Kong. But in a meeting last week with Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, the normally straitlaced lawyer displayed a flash of rare passion. When Albright asked him if she should attend the July 1 ceremony marking Hong Kong's handover from Britain to China, Lee responded unhesitatingly. "You must come... You must be there publicly, to show the Chinese your commitment to Hong Kong." That clinched it. "We consulted very quickly," a senior State Department official said later. "We didn't want to spend a month with every different interest group on China policy." At a speech the next day at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Albright announced she'd be there "to underline American support for the continuation of Hong Kong's current way of life." ...
  • The Portrait Of A Hustler

    JOHNNY CHUNG LIKED TO TELL FRIENDS HOW HE WON HILLARY CLINTON'S HEART. It was March 1993, and the nearly penniless fax-software salesman was convinced an Oval Office picture of himself with the new president would impress investors. Bunking at a friend's house, NEWSWEEK has learned, he spent days calling the White House, hoping for a sympathetic voice. To brush him off, Mrs. Clinton's chief of staff, Maggie Williams, told Chung the First Lady was visiting her ailing father in Little Rock. Chung saw his chance. He hopped a plane and surprised Hillary by leaving her a note at the hospital. He bragged to friends that she was deeply touched by the gesture. ...
  • Bright Light

    If there was a single moment when Madeleine Albright took her place in the Old Boys' Club, it came in March 1993. She was throwing a party for the new U.S. envoy to Italy. Albright was ambassador to the United Nations, and her official residence atop New York's Waldorf-Astoria Hotel was all decked out. Her guests were top foreign-policy intellectuals--including some of her old bosses from the Carter years. As she tried to offer a toast, though, the guests kept chattering. Finally, Albright barked: "I've had it with you guys. Cut the crap and behave yourselves." Leslie Gelb, then a New York Times columnist, recalls that Albright's "point was made." ...
  • No More Deja Vu

    THE HEBRON TALKS HAD SPUTTERED along since September. Whenever a deal seemed imminent, the Palestinians and Israelis would resume haggling, usually late into the night. "Have you seen "Groundhog Day'?" the exhausted U.S. negotiator, Dennis Ross, finally asked them last week. In the film, Bill Murray plays a local TV weatherman who relives the same day over and over again, with maddening (but hilarious) results. The other negotiators said they hadn't seen the movie. "You should," Ross told them, "because I'm living it."There were chuckles all around, and eventually Ross managed to extract a happy ending from his dEjA vu. The agreement finally got Israeli troops out of most of Hebron, the last occupied city on the West Bank, leaving only a garrison to protect about 400 zealous Jewish settlers who insist on living near Abraham's tomb. The Hebron deal also set up a schedule for phased Israeli withdrawal from a large part of the West Bank countryside by the middle of next year. It...
  • Now, The Taiwan Axis

    UNASSUMING, ENERGETIC AND A tireless networker, John Huang, 51, spent much of the past five years building links between Asian-Americans and the Democratic Party. A former banker who wears Brooks Brothers suits and drives a white Mercedes, Huang has ties to Bill Clinton that go back to Little Rock--and Huang's relationship to the Riady family, the Indonesian-based Chinese billionaires whose ""soft money'' contributions to the Clinton campaign are at the heart of a late-breaking election scandal, runs even deeper. All of that makes Huang--a former Commerce Department official and, until quite recently, one of the Democratic National Committee's most prolific fund raisers--the target of something very much like a manhunt. When a federal judge asked where Huang was last week, his lawyer said Huang's whereabouts were a ""client secret.'' Unamused, the judge ordered Huang to show up for questioning anyway, and DNC officials promised he would be at their offices in Washington to receive a...
  • Bibi In The Land Of Bill

    BILL CLINTON WOULD HAVE APPRECIATED a present. Hadn't newly elected Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said he would ""surprise the world'' during his first state visit to Washington? A date for the promised Israeli withdrawal from the West Bank tinderbox town of Hebron would have been gratefully received. A pledge to ease the five-month-old """closure'' of Gaza that has kept tens of thousands of workers away from their jobs might have done nicely, too. Instead, ""Bibi'' delivered a meticulous, two-hour case for his view that Arabs must fully honor their current commitments before there can be any progress on peace. When Clinton said in the White House meeting that ""terrorism is simply a symptom of the occupation'' of the West Bank and Gaza, Netanyahu shot back: ""And is Saudi Arabia an occupied territory too?'' The president turned on his fabled charm, giving Sara Netanyahu a personal Oval Office tour after the talks, but this was no lovefest. ""No one here had any illusions,''...
  • Kept In The Dark

    THE BIG TANK TRUCK WAS clearly out of place. Creeping along a sandy track, it drew near the western perimeter of the Khobar Towers housing complex, home to 2,200 U.S. Air Force and Army troops serving in Saudi Arabia. The sight was so odd that a Saudi woman asked the truckdriver where he was trying to go. ""Onto the base,'' he replied before putting the truck in reverse and backing it out the way it had come. The witness was suspicious, and gave the license-plate number of the truck to her husband, who turned it over to Saudi police. But U.S. officials first learned of the encounter weeks later -- four days after a huge bomb placed in a tanker truck exploded beside a tower on another side of the complex, killing 19 U.S. servicemen. ""A truck had no business being there,'' said a senior U.S. Air Force officer who interviewed the husband last week. ""I wanted to know that information.''Famously free with its cash, Saudi Arabia is notoriously stingy with hard facts about its internal...
  • 'We're Down But Not Out'

    AT 4:45 A.M. FRIDAY, THE KHOBAR Towers Housing Compound's ""giant voice'' loudspeaker system crackled to life. And for the second time in a week, the 2,200 U.S. Air Force and Army troops who live in the 42 buildings bailed out of bed and their apartments, taking shelter in interior hallways and stairwells. A caller had phoned in a warning that an attack was planned against a building -- just outside the complex perimeter -- that serves as the command post for 200 Saudi criminal investigators working on last week's truck bombing. Nearly two hours later, after searching every building and public space in the complex, police sounded an all-clear -- and the GIs went off to work. That included the first overflights of southern Iraq by Dhahran-based jets since the blast. ""We're down,'' said Lt. Col. Thomas Shaver at an emotional memorial service that morning for the 19 dead. ""But we're not out.''Life may have begun returning to normal for U.S. troops in Saudi Arabia, but that is hardly...
  • Clinton's 'October Surprise'

    BILL CLINTON WOULD LIKE A BIG victory in the war on crime, preferably before the November elections. What could be better than a secret operation right out of ""Mission: Impossible'' -- a real-life, high-tech sting to rob the Russian mob of its dirty money? NEWSWEEK has learned that top officials from the CIA, FBI and State Department met at the White House last week to talk about how they could pull off operations against the Russian mafia, a force that runs guns and drugs and extorts protection money from legitimate businesses. ...
  • A Sting For Beijing

    THE STING WENT LIKE CLOCKWORK, according to the federal complaint: trying out a new accomplice, a Taiwanese importer was able to have a suitcase full of embargoed Chinese rifle accessories pigeoned in and stashed in a storage locker at San Francisco International Airport. The importer picked it up and left $500 under a potted tree at the airport to pay his new fixer. The accomplice, actually a customs agent, knew a mobbed-up Miami trader -- also a federal agent. Miami wanted AK-47s for the street trade. The three agreed on code: "apples" or "tools" for automatic weapons, "poppers" for grenades. Eighteen months of haggling later, the two agents exchanged $700,000 for a container filled with 2,000 Chinese AK-47s; the three Chinese officials who approved the deal felt so comfortable that they were planning a vacation visit with their new clients. ...
  • Still On The Wing

    EVEN AFTER FLEEING BEIJING, Wuer Kaixi could still feel danger closing in on him. The flamboyant student leader--number two on the government's most-wanted list after the June 1989 Tiananmen massacre -- had struggled to reach China's southern border, finding refuge along the way in hospitals, temples, dingy safe houses and the suffocating trunk of a friend's car. But now he had a problem: everybody in southern China seemed to recognize his face from Hong Kong television, and martial-law troops were swarming around the border posts. One of his contacts ventured into Hong Kong looking for help. Local activists, wary of a Chinese trap, didn't trust him--until he showed them a Polaroid photo of Wuer holding the same day's paper with a message scrawled onto it: PLEASE SEND HELP. ...
  • The Dead Cry Out

    The horror stares american troops in the face. When one unit bivouacked in the Bosnian village of Gradina two weeks ago, the tents went up in empty yards between the burned-out homes of Muslims routed by Serbs in 1992. "This was not a frontline area," observes a lieutenant. "There are no bullet holes in these houses. It's no secret what happened here." Four miles farther into the wooded hills above the mining town of Vlasenica, shoes and bits of clothing poke from the churned surface of a 40-foot-wide pit. Empty bullet casings cover the ground. Witnesses say Serbs apparently used a blue hackhoe that still sits at the site to bury hundreds of executed Muslims. And the Serb who commanded a local detention center for Muslims, Dragan Nikolic, still lives openly in Vlasenica--even though an international tribunal in The Hague has charged him with war crimes. ...
  • Meet Me In Manhattan

    Pope John Paul II and Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, the man accused of plotting to kill him last year in the Philippines. Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Mousa Mohamed Abu Marzook, a leader of Hamas, the Islamic terror group. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, the blind Muslim cleric accused of ordering his assassination. Reputed terrorists and their high-profile targets: all of them, and many more, will be gathered in New York City during the coming month -- a hit man's dream and a policeman's nightmare. ...
  • A Case Built On A Web Of Damning Detail

    There have been no confessions, no new ar-rests-and no more live TV coverage of FBI agents in body armor surrounding some lonely farmhouse with drawn weapons. But the OKBomb investigation is alive and well, according to top-level officials at the U.S. Department of Justice, and it is methodically constructing a web of circumstantial evidence against prime suspect Timothy McVeigh and his alleged accomplice, Terry Nichols. The case against McVeigh is already "reasonably strong," a federal source says, and may get stronger if Michael Fortier, one of McVeigh's army buddies, agrees to testify. Fortier, who allegedly helped McVeigh case the federal building in Oklahoma City last December, is "chest deep" in the plot, according to one federal official --and last week prosecutors discussed a 15-year prison term in exchange for his testimony.That would give the government something it sorely needs -- a live witness who can describe some of the planning for the worst terrorist attack in U.S....
  • The Baby-Faced Buddha

    The Karmapa of Tibet is the first monk China's atheist rulers have ever recognized as a newly reincarnated "living Buddha." So he gets special respect, even if he is only 11 and a bit unpolished. When he was presented to Chinese President Jiang Zemin, the Karmapa allegedly blurted out: "Who is this man?" Chinese officials chose to ignore the remark, and last year they invited the Karmapa to tour China. Along the way they lavished the boy with publicity and gifts, including color TV sets, bolts of cloth and agate incense burners. Lest the boy's guardians miss the point of this largesse, Jiang expressed his hope that the Karmapa will grow up strong, healthy and patriotic." ...
  • China Invades Tibet--Again

    Chip...Chip that's the sound of Tibetan civilization being hacked away. Below Lhasa's imposing Potala palace, home of the exiled Dalai Lama, Chinese stonemasons chisel granite that will pave a vast new plaza with government monuments. The ancient downtown, some of it dating from the seventh century, has already suffered a terminal face-lift. The 1,000-room Potala is now surrounded by hairdressing salons. chain-smoking prostitutes and karaoke bars blaring Madonna music. Streets that once housed traditional Tibetan tea shops have given way to rows of greasy Chinese eateries run by recent arrivals from China's interior. just outside the capital, young Tibetan boys scavenge it a new open dump piled high with trash. "The Chinese keep coming," complains one Lhasa resident, "especially those who can't find jobs anywhere else." ...
  • Terror On The South Lawn

    Not since the British sacked Washington during the War of 1812 has the White House come under such a direct attack -- and last week, in what was either a daring kamikaze strike or the suicidal impulse of a deeply depressed hard-luck case, a 38-year-old Maryland man breached the secret air-defense system around the White House and crashed a stolen Cessna 150 into the building's south facade. The casualties, aside from the pilot himself, were a magnolia tree, a holly hedge and the myth that the U.S. government has any foolproof way of guarding the president's home. "Let's face it," one security expert said. "There's almost no way to stop a determined suicide bomber." ...
  • Inside The Anti-Abortion Underground

    The Rev. Matt Trewhella, co-founder of Missionaries to the Pre-Born, a Milwaukee anti-abortion group, was boasting to an audience last May about his 16-month-old son, Jeremiah. Trewhella said he already knew to raise his index finger when asked, "Which is your trigger finger?" The crowd at a Wisconsin state convention of the ultraconservative U.S. Taxpayers Party also heard this recommendation from Trewhella: "This Christmas, I want you to do the most loving thing. I want you to buy each of your children an SKS rifle and 500 rounds of ammunition." ...