Original version of 16/10/2020. English translation is only draft.
＜Chinese Manipulation of the Palau Presidential Election>
On September 22 primary elections were held with a presidential candidate who was claiming to switch diplomatic relations with China. The Republic of Palau is a Pacific island nation that maintains diplomatic relations with Taiwan. Currently, there are 16 countries in the world that have diplomatic relations with Taiwan, including four in the Pacific: Palau, Marshall Islands, Nauru and Tuvalu. Among them, Palau is located on the second island chain, which is important for both the United States and China in terms of maritime security.
Palau, which shares the same presidential system as the United States, holds presidential elections every four years in the same cycle as the United States. There were four candidates running in this election, but it was a substantive showdown between incumbent Vice President and Minister of Justice, Raymond Oilouch, and former congressman and businessman Surangel Whipps Jr.
It is the candidate Oilouch who has supported China. Although Palau has maintained relations with Taiwan since independence, Oulouch has pledged in his campaign speeches that switching to China could lead to economic development. If Oilouch becomes the President, Palau will have diplomatic relations with China.
In the primary elections Srangel took a significant lead over Oilouch with 1,709 votes. This means that if either the third or fourth place vote goes to Oilouch, Surangel will still win. It is widely rumored that a lot of cash flowed in from China to Oilouch and that the cash was distributed to voters. If this is true, the result of this election is a victory for the Palauan people over Chinese money. So much so that Chinese infiltration is corrupting Palauan society and made the people anxious.
U.S. Defense Secretary Esper, who just visited the country on August 28, must have been equally relieved by the results of the primary elections. The United States, which has signed a special defence and diplomatic agreement with Palau, plans to install a multi-billion dollar ballistic missile radar on Angaur Island of Palau. If diplomatic relations with China are established, Chinese infiltration of Palau, which has a population of less than 20,000, will proceed further. It's not just about them. This could lead to an Indo-Pacific security crisis.
The present situation of Palau has already reached the stage where it is too late for China to penetrate Palau. I would like to further comment on this by quoting from an article which I co-authored in August this year with Jennifer Anson, Director of the Human Trafficking Control Bureau of the Palau Ministry of Justice, for the Sankei English-language media outlet Japan forwards.
The Chinese threat does not affect only military ones: in 2015, Palau experienced an influx of Chinese by accepting direct charter flights from mainland China, Macau and Hong Kong. Many Chinese "investors" paid large sums of money to acquire land and buildings on 50- to 99-year leases. The possibility of money laundering cannot be denied since they have since been abandoned. Currently, 111 bank accounts in the Palau branch of U.S. banks, including the Bank of Hawaii, are frozen on suspicion of money laundering, corruption and bribery.
Illegal online gambling operations have also skyrocketed: in January 2020, law enforcement agencies arrested three different online gambling operations and arrested about 150 Chinese nationals; in June, they arrested and tried and convicted about 60 people at another operation; and in June, they arrested and tried and convicted several hotels and buildings across Palau. The Ministry of Justice has evidence that these operations are still going on in several hotels and buildings throughout Palau. Why they promote online gambling operations in Palau, not China? China has banned gambling. So has Cambodia, Myanmar, Vanuatu, the Philippines, etc., where the law and order are loose, and are places of choice for crime. In addition, infrastructure, such as the Internet, is a prerequisite. This online gambling may extend to all kinds of cyber crimes across countries. Young even teenage Chinese men and women involved in this crime may be victims of human trafficking and have been recruited to Palau from places like Cambodia, where online gambling became illegal.
What exactly are the cybercrimes being committed? In Cambodia, for example, hundreds or even thousands of Chinese stay illegally without work visas and go to hundreds of computers in a hotel room. Beyond the computers, people from all over the world participating in virtual currency investments and online games. They not only withdraw money for games and investments, but also obtain credit card information from customers and make unauthorized withdrawals. The Palau Parliament was about to pass a bill that would amend the existing casino bill and overlook the illegal activities of Chinese cyber criminals in Palau. The politicians of developing countries who invite and protect online gambling.
Presidential candidate and current Minister of Justice Oilouch is one of them. And it is the current president, Tommy Remengesau, who invited the Chinese crime syndicate to Palau. Last April, an article appeared in the press with a photograph of Wan Kuok-koi, the boss of the Macau Triad and President Remengesau. The President was welcoming him to Palau and signed a letter of approval for the establishment of the World Hongmen's Historical and Cultural Association, with the nominal purpose of cultural and charitable activities in Palau, and a firm handshake with Wan Kuok-koi. This was shocking news for Chinese experts who knew what the Triad is and the impact it will have on the peoples of Palau. INDOPACOM, Pentagon, which had been raising awareness of Palau's security importance had also had special attention on this issue.
＜Five eyes and Triad>
I had been watching that global criminals, celebrities, billionaires, and fraudsters like Wan Kuok-koi,have been approaching the leaders of Pacific island governments for decades, so I used to post news articles about them on my blog with a sense of "here they are again". One day I received a call from an intelligence agency. They said they had read my blog and wanted me to make a list of what to read because there was too much information.
“I wrote them all in Japanese?”
“We'll translate, it's okay.”
There is only a limited amount of information that I can write about in a public blog, and the reality of the darkness of paradise is deep and complex. I've been working for the past few years as a volunteer sixth eye for “Five Eyes”. I have a clear motive. Unfortunately, it is the Japanese who have created this corrupt society in Palau. Before moving on to Japan's involvement and responsibility, I would like to give you a little more information about the current situation in the Pacific Island countries.
The INDOPACOM chose Angaur Island as its radar base. It was Wan Kuok-koi of the Macau Triad who announced that he would lease Angaur Island for 99 years and develop a huge casino resort there. It may sound like a joke, but there is a possibility that the casino resort of the Triad and the radar facility of the INDOPACOM will coexist on the island of Angaur, which is only eight square kilometers. What would be the aim of building a casino resort on such a remote island? It will become a new breeding ground for cybercrime and money laundering. Furthermore, some U.S. government officials have pointed out that the infrastructure being developed under the guise of a casino resort could become a future base for the Chinese Liberation Army. It is a well-known fact that China has been steadily building up its military bases in the South China Sea. It is quite possible.
Drug trafficking is also widespread in Palau, and the Drug Enforcement Bureau of the Ministry of Justice, with only eight employees, deals with it on a daily basis without fear of personal harm. It's no wonder that officers have had their cars burned down and their families' lives are threatened. The Palau Drug Enforcement Agency also works to protect children from drugs and criminal activities by organizing children's Judo classes. Unfortunately, it is also the families of Palau's politicians who are complicit in the drug crime and causing more victims. They smuggle in methamphetamine called "ice" from China and the Philippines for cash. They give it to children on the way of coming home from school for free and get them addicted. Now the addicted children are coerced into prostitution and crimes to get cash instead of methamphetamine. The Indian reporter working for the local newspaper who reported on this situation disappeared. I was the one who provided him with the information. He had written about the reality of drug syndicates in Palau. I advised him that his life was in danger, but he told me, "You're the third person to give me warning" he said, telling me about the social responsibilities of journalists. He told me that he majored in journalism in the University. People who know about the drug problem of the children of Paradise Island don't talk about it, and when they do, they are obliterated. This is the darkness of paradise.
Attorney, Ms Rachel Bergeron, a 33-year-old female U.S. citizen who tried to save children and women in the darkness of paradise - Yap island of Federated Sattes of Micronesia was shot and killed last October by local islanders of Yap Island where she was acting Attorney General. In Palau, law enforcement authorities are fighting daily to arrest Chinese cybercriminals, but according to multiple sources one person who is not happy about this is Oilouch who is a presidential candidate and the current Minister of Justice. The first nearly 150 Chinese online gambling offenders arrested were released with payment of $100 fine per person as per the Minister's instructions. The arrest in June of this year resulted in the seizure of evidence and a guilty verdict in court. However, this time, the Attorney General issued an unusual written advisory, claiming that the prosecutor had acted beyond her authority. It is widely rumored that this was another instruction from Minister of Justice Oilouch, one of the candidates for the next president of Palau.
How did I find out so much about the "darkness of paradise" in so much detail that the intelligence community inquired about it? Of course, I have a background of deep involvement in the Pacific islands for 30 years, but this was largely triggered by my visit to Vanuatu last year.
＜Virtual Currency Crime between Vanuatu and Palau>
June 2019, after a presentation at a conference organised by the ANU and held in New Caledonia, I stopped off in Vanuatu. The purpose was to present to the National Archive my doctoral dissertation which I had completed a few years ago that addressed Vanuatu's telecommunication development and policy as part of case studies. I also visited to meet friends and acquaintances who had helped me. On the day of my arrival in Vanuatu, the top story in the local newspaper, the Vanuatu Daily Post, was the news of the deportation of Chinese criminals. Strangely enough, however, the details of the crime were not disclosed by the government, and the police from China came in a chartered plane and brought the criminals back home. Isn't Vanuatu supposed to be a country with the rule of law and democracy? An acquaintance of mine, Daily Post editor-in-chief Dan McGarry, voiced his doubts. An even stranger thing happened. The word "Vanuatu" kept popping up on Twitter in Japanese. The six deported Chinese were from a group called Plus Tokens, which is famous for its virtual currency investment business. Many Chinese and Japanese also seemed to have invested in the group. The news that the six Chinese had been deported from Vanuatu reached Japan via China. I immediately informed Editor-in-Chief Mr McGarry. Several of the six Chinese were in possession of Vanuatu passports and had criminal records. However, the Vanuatu government did not disclose this information. Then prime minister summoned the Canadian, Mr. McGarry, and threatened him to return to his country if he didn't like it here, then took away his work visa, and finally denied him entry into Vanuatu after a business trip to Australia. Disregard for human rights, the social networking sites echoed. Yes, in Vanuatu, as in Palau, the head of state cooperates with China's cybercrime and obliterates those who talk about darkness.
What happened in Vanuatu was not the first time this type of thing happened in the South Pacific. The exactly same thing happened in Fiji, which quickly deepened its relationship with China as Australia and New Zealand distanced themselves from the coup; in June 2018, 77 Chinese involved in online gambling made headlines when they were suddenly taken by Chinese police in a chartered plane. As in Vanuatu, the Fijian government was not involved in any arrests and did not disclose any information. Similar deportations have taken place in the Philippines and other countries by the hundreds, leading Chinese experts to suspect that the deportations are not arrests but rather "protection" by the Chinese government.
Is the rule of law existing in Pacific Island countries? It is no longer at the level of asking the question, "What should we do?
This is not only Chinese involvement in Vanuatu. Over the past few years, around 4,000 passports have been sold, many of which have been purchased by Chinese nationals. More and more people may be looking to escape from China and Hong Kong, but many media outlets have begun to take up the issue and sound the alarm. An article in the Guardian (August 20, 2020) states that in the first six months of this year alone, passport sales reached just over US 6 million, 80 percent of the planned total. It noted that Vanuatu had a national budget surplus despite the CCOVID-19 and cyclone damage. Each passport costs about 13,000USD and the government receives 8,000 USD yen in revenue.
Passport sales revenue accounts for a third of the national budget, and the Vanuatu government can't afford to stop this business. Many Chinese who have obtained passports do not even live in Vanuatu, instead migrate to Europe. Passports are sold in both developed and other developing countries, but Vanuatu's passports have gained a reputation for their lax and fast screening process. At one point, they even tried to make them available for purchase with virtual currency. Six of the deported Chinese nationals who held Vanuatu passports had criminal records. Vanuatu's disregard for law and order is spreading criminals around the world.
My coincidence experience has tied Palau to Vanuatu. When I told my friends in Palau about the sale of passports in Vanuatu and the Chinese virtual currency crime, they said
"Vanuatu? Virtual currency? The members of the Triad who entered Palau have Vanuatu passports. What they are doing here in Palau is virtual currency, cybercrime!” shouted over the phone.
I was surprised, too. Chinese transnational online gambling and virtual currency fraud is steadily eroding across the equator and into the Small Island Developing States -SIDS.
I provided the impetus for the online gambling arrests in Palau that I mentioned in the first part of this article. But fortunately for Palau, which has no diplomatic relations with China, the Chinese police cannot come for “protect” or “arrest” them. The global belief that there is no such thing as a global crime in a small island nation, a paradise in the Pacific, may have turned the region into a paradise for cross-border crime. And China is also cleverly using the assumption that small countries cannot influence the international community.
This tendency to disregard small countries has also affected the South China Sea. Vanuatu was one of the first and most consistent supporters of China's position in the South China Sea. The impact on the international stage of the outnumbered Pacific island nations cannot be ignored. The Republic of Vanuatu, with a population of only 250,000 people and around 100 ethnic groups on around 100 islands, has not even been able to develop itself domestically. There are no experts in international and maritime law. And where would they get expertise on "historical rights," which was a main point in the South China Sea Tribunal? In Vanuatu, where the University of the South Pacific (HQ in Fiji) has a law campus, a Chinese lecturer of international law has arrived to brief the Vanuatu government on the South China Sea issue. In addition, the Chinese Communist Party has signed sister agreements with several political parties in Vanuatu to secure their support for the South China Sea. A few millions of USD would be enough to secure Vanuatu's support for the South China Sea. That's how poor the Pacific island countries are. They cannot develop their own huge EEZs. And after gaining independence, only the con people of the world approached them. It is impossible for Japan, the US, Australia and New Zealand to bribe anyone at the governmental level.
＜Japan's Involvement and Responsibility>
Unfortunately, Japan is not a bystander to the "darkness of paradise". On the contrary, it is a sinful country and people who have been creating this darkness for decades. I was casually reading a newspaper article on the arrest this September of “Japan Life” chairman, Mr. Yamaguchi, when I saw the word "Palau" in the article and was immediately depressed. Former Prime Minister Nakasone was denounced in the Diet for receiving 100,000USD in donations from “Japan Life” as well as a 660,000 km2 (200,000-tsubo) land in Palau, which was recorded in the Diet minutes.
In the 80s, Japan was in a bubble economy and money was roaring. People may not remember it anymore, but there was one of the biggest frauds after the war, the Toyota Shoji case, in which Chairman Nagano was stabbed to death in front of a TV camera. Toyoda Corporation leased land in the Airai Province of Palau and announced plans to develop a large hotel and resort. It has been suggested that it may have been used to attract investment and launder hundreds of billions of yen that disappeared with Nagano's death. Is it a coincidence that Palau's first president, Haruo Remeliik, was assassinated just 12 days after Nagano was killed?
By the way, I've heard of this scheme somewhere. The dubious investments currently being made in China were formed by the Japanese. Even now the Japanese are involved, and I am constantly being contacted by intelligence agencies around the world. China, South Korea, the UK and the US are also involved in this dubious investment, if it's any consolation. It was the British government that first introduced the tax haven system to the Pacific island which lead money laundering, formally established in 70s as for independent Vanuatu economic and financial institution.
After 30 years of seeing the darkness in the Pacific island countries, the impact of the development of telecommunications and the Internet has been both deepened and exposing darkness at the same time. It used to be difficult to write or talk about this kind of stories in the past, but nowadays, more and more people know about it with the Internet. The growing darkness is the spread of online gambling and other cybercrimes. At the same time, information of darkness has been shared and exposed by world's intelligence organizations.
For more than a decade I have been reporting on the realities of Pacific Island countries through my blog, “Coconuts News”. But I have been told many times, "That's ridiculous," and some have said, "How can we trust what you say?” That's how deep-rooted the myth of paradise is. The only information on the region's only industry, tourism, is "White sand beaches and blue sea of Pacific!". However, thanks to China, this is also the original part of the darkness that was there and is being to be exposed.
<What can sinful Japan do?>
In 2017, I was invited to speak on the realities of the Pacific Island countries at two seminars for the Member of Parliament Special Committees - Maritime Security Committee and Pacific Islands Affairs Committee. The Chairman of the two associations, MP Keiji Furuya, and Abe’s right hand person MP Seiichi Eto recognized the serious problem of the Pacific Island countries, especially the relationship between the maritime security issues of the Pacific Island countries, which form a vast EEZ that has become a lawless zone, and connection with the Abe administration's security diamond initiative. As I wrote in my book “A History of colonization in the Indo-Pacific region. A confluence of two seas” (Meisei-sha, 2020), the Indo-Pacific concept has connected two seas of scattered small island nations in one fell swoop from the Quad.
For 30 years, I have seen that no matter how high-minded politicians' policies are, the bureaucrats only act in their own self-interest and ministry's interest. This time it was different. It was MP Kentaro Sonoura, a member of the Diet, who led a delegation of “All Japan” i.e. relevant ministries and agencies to visit Indo-Pacific countries. Although there had been some MPs who had visited Pacific island countries in the past, there were no MPs who were interested in the darkness of the island societies as explained above. MP Masahisa Sato, a former member of the Japan Self-Defense Forces, has also recognized from a military perspective how defenseless the Pacific island countries are being manipulated by China's military advance, and has been making voice in the media.
The Japanese government will host the ninth Pacific Islands Leaders summit next year, which began in 1997.
Since the end of the Cold War, while US withdraw from the region, middle power Australia and small New Zealand have been defending the vast Pacific Ocean. They are excellent and have done very well. But the Indo-Pacific is huge. Britain has many Commonwealth member countries in this region, and France has jurisdiction over the Overseas Territories and the world's largest EEZ. This September, Germany, which Japan kicked out of the Pacific a hundred years ago, also announced its Indo-Pacific policy. I hope that Japan will encourage these "like-minded" countries, which have the reality of maritime power, to participate in the next island summit and cut into the darkness of paradise with law and order.
Rieko Hayakawa (PhD), Doshisha University, School of Law
Thirty years of field involvement in security, communications, and education projects in Pacific Island countries. Proposed the Indo-Pacific concept and maritime security to the 8th Pacific Island Summit. Established the Micronesian Maritime Security Program to create a cooperative framework for the three Micronesian countries plus the governments of Japan, the United States, and Australia. The USPNet, a distance learning system for the University of the South Pacific, was the centerpiece of the 1st Pacific Island Summit and was awarded an ODA project.
Doctor in Philosophy (University of Otago), M.A. in International Politics (Aoyama Gakuin University) and M.A. in Education (Chiba University).
In her 20s, participated in the Prime Minister Office's Youth Program and was involved in the establishment of the International Youth Exchange Organization of Japan (IYEO) and SSEAYP International Organization, where she served as Secretary General. Currently researching the law of the sea at Doshisha University, School of Law. She has published many articles in English and Japanese, including “A History of colonization in the Indo-Pacific region. A confluence of two seas” (2020 Meisei-sha).