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DECEMBER 8 , 2000 VOL. 26 NO. 46 | SEARCH ASIAWEEK

Newsmakers

One Step Closer
Nearly three weeks after the inconclusive American presidential election, Gov. George W. Bush of Texas claimed victory, began forming his new administration and called on his Democratic Party opponent, Vice President Al Gore, to concede and drop further legal actions. Bush made his move shortly after Katherine Harris, the Florida state elections officer, certified Bush's victory in Florida by 537 votes (out of some 6 million cast) on the Nov. 26 deadline set by the state supreme court. The Bush camp has challenged the state court's ruling before the U.S. Supreme Court, even though that would now seem moot. Far from conceding, Gore says he will contest the election, which means that the decision could extend past the Dec. 18 date for the vote by the Electoral College, which formally chooses the U.S. president. Florida's 25 electoral votes just barely give Bush the majority of 271 he needs to win the White House.

Disappearing Act
He was supposed to have met with former president Fidel Ramos at the posh Manila Hotel last Friday. But public-relations guru Salvador "Bubby" Dacer, 63, did not show. He evidently did not go home either, since his children quickly sent out an SOS that he had been kidnapped. Police found his abandoned car at the bottom of a ravine three days later. Dacer was said to be knee-deep in the movement to force President Joseph Estrada out of office, through impeachment or resignation or whatever. But wait. Estrada maintained that Dacer went to him three days before to offer his PR services to help the president keep his job. Add to that reports that his main client, Vice President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, has been displeased because her popularity rating has taken a big tumble lately. Given the supercharged atmosphere that has gripped Manila recently, who wouldn't want to disappear?

No Longer On the Run
If there were such a thing as a Ten-Most-Wanted list in China, Lai Changxing, 46, would head it. Lai is alleged to be the brains behind a massive smuggling and corruption scam, centered on Fujian province, that has reached into the Politburo. Already, 84 people have been convicted of being involved in smuggling cars, oil, cigarettes and other goods valued at some $6 billion. Of these, 11 have been sentenced to death. Hundreds of Chinese investigators descended on Xiamen in July, 1999, to investigate activities centering on Yuanhua Group, which authorities claim was a front for the scam. Lai eluded the dragnet for 15 months until he and his wife, Tsang Mingna, were arrested in Vancouver on Nov. 23 on unspecified immigration charges. Don't expect any quick return to China though. China has no extradition treaty with Canada, which is also reluctant to deport people who face the death penalty. That would certainly be the case with Lai. On the other hand, this case has the highest-level attention. Prime Minister Zhu Rongji publicly called on Ottawa to deport Lai and said the diplomatic wheels to achieve that were already in motion. Canada might satisfy its qualms by sending him to Hong Kong, where he is a resident and which has no death penalty, and put the onus for dispatching him to China on Hong Kong's shoulders.

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