Peking survives its trial by Greenpeace

China and the bomb: Superpower avoids ugly clash with environmentalists after deciding on nuclear test before world ban

Has China finally mastered the art of handling a difficult situation without over-reacting? Yesterday, about 70 Chinese uniformed officials boarded a Greenpeace ship moored off Shanghai, firmly told the crew they were not welcome in Chinese territorial waters, accepted delivery of a statement calling on China to stop nuclear tests, and then escorted the vessel into international waters.Even a Greenpeace spokesman admitted the apparently unarmed Chinese boarding party had been "extremely well- behaved".

From Peking's point of view there was never any question that the MV Greenpeace would be allowed into Shanghai's harbour. But after China's nuclear test last Saturday, which was swiftly followed by an announcement that it would join a global moratorium on testing in September after one more blast, Peking seems to have been anxious to avoid an ugly confrontation.

The ship arrived off the Chinese coast about lunchtime yesterday, after leaving Manila on Saturday, the same day as China's new pledge. Earlier this week, Peking said it had refused an application for permission to bring the ship into Shanghai, although there had been contact between Chinese embassy officials and Greenpeace in Geneva and Manila.

The ship anchored at the mouth of the Yangtze River, and requested a Chinese pilot into the harbour, because of the difficult currents. China's state-run Xinhua News Agency said Shanghai authorities ordered the MV Greenpeace to leave and warned that the crew "would be responsible for all the consequences" if they refused. Then about 40 port and marine officials boarded the vessel. They were then replaced by the 70 uniformed personnel, more than double the 32 activists on the Greenpeace mission. Greenpeace was unable to identify whether the personnel were port security, naval officers or army. The crew was ordered not to use the communications equipment or answer the satellite telephone.

"They were very calm and extremely firm ... and extremely well-behaved," said Damon Moglen, a spokesmen for Greenpeace. He said no one from Greenpeace was touched or manhandled. Greenpeace officials, who had hoped to moor the ship in Shanghai and invite Chinese on board to view an anti-nuclear exhibition, explained that they had come a long way to bring a message, and they wanted to deliver it to the Chinese government.

Mr Moglen said the senior Chinese officer agreed to a "ceremony" on the ship, during which he received a formal Greenpeace statement calling on Peking to stop nuclear tests immediately and agree unconditionally to a Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty.

The captain was then escorted to the bridge of his ship, and the vessel headed for international waters accompanied by eight Chinese vessels including, according to Greenpeace, two gunboats. It will arrive in Hong Kong in about three days.

Last August, China deported eight Greenpeace activists, including two photographers, for an anti-nuclear protest in Tiananmen Square. However, two of those detained have since had no problem re-entering China, and another Greenpeace official has been back to attend a nuclear disarmament conference. "We are not looking to go out of our way to make it difficult for us to work in China," said Mr Moglen.

Greenpeace yesterday maintained that it was correct to stage the action despite Peking's commitment on joining the moratorium, accusing China of still putting "major obstacles" in the way of a nuclear test ban. Negotiations for the treaty have a 28 June deadline if it is to be ready for a September signing.

Last week, China seemed to drop its insistence that "peaceful" blasts be exempt for a test ban, and after the Saturday test unexpectedly announced it would conduct one more. Since France concluded its six controversial tests earlier this year, China has been the only country still testing and most analysts had expected more blasts.

Greenpeace insists that a close reading of the Chinese statement is that Peking will only sign a treaty if it includes a commitment to review the status of "peaceful" blasts after 10 years. It also says China's final test could destabilise the treaty signing.

China, which is racing to modernise its nuclear arsenal before a treaty is signed, maintains it has carried out fewer tests than most other powers. Last weekend's was its 44th, compared with the United States (1,030), the former Soviet Union (715), France (210), UK (45) and India (probably 1).

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Analyst - 12 Month FTC - Entry Level

£23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Business Analyst is required ...

Recruitment Genius: Chefs - All Levels

£16000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: To succeed, you will need to ha...

Recruitment Genius: Maintenance Engineer

£8 per hour: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join an award winni...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive & Customer Service - Call Centre Jobs!

£7 - £9 per hour: Recruitment Genius: Are you outgoing? Do you want to work in...

Day In a Page

Isis in Syria: Influential tribal leaders hold secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over possibility of mobilising against militants

Tribal gathering

Influential clans in Syria have held secret talks with Western powers and Gulf states over the possibility of mobilising against Isis. But they are determined not to be pitted against each other
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

A growing population and a compromised and depleted aquifer leaves water in scarce supply for Palestinians
Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously

Illnesses, car crashes and suicides

Dozens of politicians, bureaucrats and businessmen linked to Indian bribery scandal die mysteriously
Srebrenica 20 years after the genocide: Why the survivors need closure

Bosnia's genocide, 20 years on

No-one is admitting where the bodies are buried - literally and metaphorically
How Comic-Con can make or break a movie: From Batman vs Superman to Star Wars: Episode VII

Power of the geek Gods

Each year at Comic-Con in San Diego, Hollywood bosses nervously present blockbusters to the hallowed crowd. It can make or break a movie
What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?

Perfect match

What do strawberries and cream have to do with tennis?
10 best trays

Get carried away with 10 best trays

Serve with ceremony on a tray chic carrier
Wimbledon 2015: Team Murray firing on all cylinders for SW19 title assault

Team Murray firing on all cylinders for title assault

Coaches Amélie Mauresmo and Jonas Bjorkman aiming to make Scot Wimbledon champion again
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Vasek Pospisil must ignore tiredness and tell himself: I'm in the quarter-final, baby!
Ashes 2015: Angus Fraser's top 10 moments from previous series'

Angus Fraser's top 10 Ashes moments

He played in five series against Australia and covered more as a newspaper correspondent. From Waugh to Warne and Hick to Headley, here are his highlights
Greece debt crisis: EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

EU 'family' needs to forgive rather than punish an impoverished state

An outbreak of malaria in Greece four years ago helps us understand the crisis, says Robert Fisk
Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge: The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas

Gaza, a year on from Operation Protective Edge

The traumatised kibbutz on Israel's front line, still recovering from last summer's war with Hamas
How to survive electrical storms: What are the chances of being hit by lightning?

Heavy weather

What are the chances of being hit by lightning?
World Bodypainting Festival 2015: Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'

World Bodypainting Festival 2015

Bizarre and brilliant photos celebrate 'the body as art'
alt-j: A private jet, a Mercury Prize and Latitude headliners

Don't call us nerds

Craig Mclean meets alt-j - the math-folk act who are flying high