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China Says Death Penalty for Damage to Electric Grid

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My Dad used to say that the gangs in his neighborhood when he was a lad would “steal anything that wasn’t bolted down.”

In China, that adage doesn’t apply. Somebody will likely steal the bolts.

In fact, young teenage boys have been arrested on the streets of Beijing, Shanghai and other big cities because they were selling the large bolts that help hold together high tension power structures.

Today the communist government of President Hu Jintao announced that anyone who steals or destroys parts of the electrical system will face the death penalty.

When we checked with our team around the world, we quickly found some interesting theories. Most “China watchers” believe the problem stems from a combination of poverty and lawlessness.

“You get a ways out of the big cities and the rule of law doesn’t have the same value you might find in the U.S. or Europe,” one of our “watchers” who lives in China told us. “Who is to know if a gang of teenagers unbolts these big towers in the dark of night?”

In the Philippines, after the United States turned over to the Philippine government the former bases at Clark Air Force Base and the Subic Bay Navy Base, poverty and lawlessness crashed together to create this very problem. Even underground electrical cables were unearthed to capture their copper which had a high dollar value in the Philippines.

And justthis past June, on the 26th, Vietnam decided the death penalty was in order for Vietnamese fishermen who made off with tons of fiber optic cable from the sea bed. The fishermen claimed they though the cable was left over from the war in Vietnam that ended in 1975.  That copper cable is fair game for salvage.

The charge that makes one eligible for the death penalty in Vietnam is similar to that in China: “destroying major public national security projects.”

In the Vietnamese fiber optic caper, Deputy Minister of Posts and Telematics Tran Duc Lai said that no country in the world had ever suffered such a massive theft of fiber optic cable.  

So what is the root cause of China’s problems with the electric grid?   One China watcher said, “The Beijing government cannot ensure law and order thoughout China. This meants infrastructure like the power grid can come under attack. But if you venture into the cities to sell the fruits of lawlessness, we will kill you. That is the message Beijing wants to send.”

Why is disruption of the electrical system grounds for the death penalty?

The answer is simple: the communist government of China doesn’t want one day or one minute of manufacturing and money making lost for any reason.

“Theft of a sufficient amount of fuel oil will also earn you the death penalty,” we were told.

Another China watcher wanted to emphasize that it is not just disruption of manufacturing that is the worry of the communist government.

“There are scores of money making ventures that need electric power. China’s organ transplant empire services rich Hong Kong tycoons that fall ill. In fact, people come to China from all over the world seeking medical attention often of a dubious nature. You must think of this as a state industry.”

Chinese courts are believed to order about 80 percent of the world’s court-ordered executions — at least 1,770 people in 2005 and possibly many more.

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John E. Carey is the former president of International Defense Consultants, Inc.
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