Bermuda and China sign tax deal; Uighurs in WikiLeaks documents
The Uighurs were not mentioned during negotiations between the Chinese and Bermudian governments which resulted in a tax agreement being signed yesterday.Former Premier Ewart Brown who organised the relocation without the knowledge of most of his Government colleagues or permission from the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office has always maintained there was no “quid pro quo” for Bermuda accepting the Uighurs. He said it was a humanitarian gesture.
However, a leaked document shows that a French official has asked how much Bermuda was paid for accepting the former Guantanamo Bay detainees.
Government's tax agreement with China coincided with the first reference to Bermuda surfacing in leaked US diplomatic cables.
The cable stated a US Special Envoy told French officials “minimal” money was given to Bermuda for accepting four Uighurs.
The cable is the first one related to Bermuda to be made public through the whistleblowing website WikiLeaks which is releasing tens of thousands of cables from US embassies and consulates around the world. In total there are 68 cables where Bermuda is mentioned. Twenty-seven of those came from the US Consulate in Bermuda.
In June 2009 four Uighurs, who are a Chinese ethnic minority, were released from the US detention camp in Cuba and secretly flown to Bermuda.
A month after they arrived in Bermuda Deputy Director for the Office of Transnational Threats in France, Martin Julliard, asked how much money Bermuda received.
The question was posed on July 2, 2009 during a meeting between Eric Chevallier, a special advisor to the French Foreign Affairs Minister, and Dan Fried, US Special Envoy for Closure of the Guantanamo Detention Facility; the European nation was considering accepting six former Guantanamo detainees.
A cable written on July 9, 2009 from the US Embassy in Paris states: “Chevallier's expert on this issue, Martin Julliard, asked about the financial payments the US is providing to Bermuda and Palau upon their acceptance of the Uighur detainees.
“Fried clarified that US funds are intended to cover reimbursable expenses only and are minimal.”
International media has claimed Palua received a $200 million aide package in exchange for accepting the Uighurs. Both the US and Paula governments have stated the decision to extend an existing aid package to the North Pacific Island was not related to the Uighurs.
The Chinese Government has always called the Uighurs ‘terrorist suspects' and claim they want to create an independent homeland in the western province of Xinjiang. In 2009 the Chinese Government condemned the transfer of Uighurs to Palua but made no mention of those coming to Bermuda.
Some critics on the Island warned Bermuda's decision to accept the Uighurs would anger China but yesterday Premier Paula Cox said the situation was not mentioned during negotiations between the two countries to establish a tax information exchange agreement
“The negotiations and discussions that led up to the agreement did not touch on or reflect at all the issue of the Uighurs,” she said.
Ms Cox added that she hoped the Island can strengthen links with the world's second biggest economy.
l To read the full story on the tax agreement turn to page 28.