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Bill Clinton says his China ties don't conflict with wife's campaign

CAMPAIGN '08: THE DEMOCRATS

April 15, 2008|Stephen Braun | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — In brief comments on the campaign trail in Pennsylvania, former President Clinton said that his fundraising relationship with a Chinese company involved in Internet censorship did not pose a potential conflict of interest for his wife's presidential campaign.

Even though the Chinese Web firm, Alibaba Inc., recently carried a government-issued Internet "wanted notice" urging the arrest of Tibetan protesters, he said that he backed Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's tough words on China.

"I support the Dalai Lama and I support Hillary's position," he said in remarks posted online today by the New York Observer. He made the comments Sunday during a campaign event for his wife in Bloomsburg, Pa.

In recent weeks, Sen. Clinton has issued strong statements about mainland China's crackdown in Tibet and urged President Bush to boycott the opening of the Summer Olympics in Beijing. She has also called for a "dialogue" between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama.

But her stance appears at odds with her husband's dealings with Alibaba and his 2005 speech at an Internet forum in Hangzhou, China. A Times article Sunday,1,254417.story reported that Alibaba paid for some of his expenses and donated an unspecified amount to his foundation after the speech.

Alibaba has been accused by human rights groups of cooperating with Chinese officials in their scrutiny of mainland Internet users.

Bill Clinton said Sunday that his foundation's 2005 donation from Alibaba played a role in his efforts to battle the AIDS virus. "They help me save lives in China," he said.

Tax filings for his AIDS foundation in 2005 do not mention Alibaba or its donation. A foundation spokeswoman said that Alibaba's 2005 contribution had gone to his main foundation and not to his AIDS effort, which was later absorbed into the foundation.

The former president has relied on Chinese connections for his foundation and for lucrative speaking engagements.

In December 2004, according to the Chicago Tribune,0,5935166.story, he appeared at a New York launch party for Accoona, an Internet search engine. Accoona later issued his foundation options for 200,000 shares of its stock. Accoona's main partner in its Internet venture was the China Daily Information Co., a subsidiary of China Daily, the Chinese government-published English-language newspaper.

He also visited mainland China at least four other times between 2001 and 2005, reaping at least $1.25 million in speaking fees from Chinese groups.

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steve.braun@latimes.com

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