Panda watch!

panda02.jpgApparently there’s nothing to the rumor that Rep. Barbara Lee‘s effort to hold China’s feet to the fire about the genocide in Sudan’s Darfur region is bollixing up an eight-year effort to lease a pair of pandas from the Chinese government for the Oakland Zoo.

“We are not aware of any negative response from China regarding what Barbara Lee has said on Darfur,” Willie Yee, senior policy advisor to panda patron Oakland Vice Mayor Henry Chang, told me a short while ago. “There could be fallout later but we haven’t heard anything… In fact, negotiations to get the pandas are going really well right now – we’re more optimistic about getting them now then we were even six months ago.”

The Political Blotter had posed the question to Chang’s office after hearing that perhaps Beijing wasn’t so happy about Lee’s H.Res. 422, introduced in May and passed by the House in June, “(c)alling on the Government of the People’s Republic of China to use its unique influence and economic leverage to stop genocide and violence in Darfur, Sudan.”

lee3.jpgLee’s bipartisan resolution notes China “has long-standing economic and military ties with Sudan and continues to strengthen these ties in spite of the ongoing genocide in Darfur.” For example, China buys at least 70 percent of Sudan’s oil and has reportedly cancelled about $100 million in debt owed by the Sudanese government. China also provided funds for a presidential palace in Sudan at a reported cost of about $20 million. And international human rights watchdog Amnesty International has accused China and Russia of selling weapons to Sudan that are used in violence in Darfur.

Josh Richman

Josh Richman covers state and national politics for the Bay Area News Group. A New York City native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and reported for the Express-Times of Easton, Pa. for five years before coming to the Oakland Tribune and ANG Newspapers in 1997. He is a frequent guest on KQED Channel 9’s “This Week in Northern California;” a proud father; an Eagle Scout; a somewhat skilled player of low-stakes poker; a rather good cook; a firm believer in the use of semicolons; and an unabashed political junkie who will never, EVER seek elected office.