As the New York Times reports, Justin Franchi Solondz has been on the run since trying to burn down some horticulture buildings at Seattle’s University of Washington campus in 2001. It seems he has been holed up in Dali, Yunnan, impersonating a Canadian and keeping busy by burying 30 pounds of marijuana in his backyard.
He is an alumnus of Evergreen State College, an institution in beautiful Olympia, Washington, just down the road from where I’m presently blogging. (In fact, I spent a very pleasurable two hours this past Tuesday night screaming my lungs out in opposition to the Evergreen basketball team, who arrived at my university to steal a win on the road.)
Although it’s unlikely that President Obama had any interaction with this matter personally, the timing of his trial is interesting; he was arrested in March 2009 and has been keeping someone very busy in the U.S. Consulate in Chengdu (which has responsibility for Americans in Kunming) as well as the giant new Embassy in Beijing. The U.S. and China have no extradition treaty, but the Seattle FBI is getting excited about this. If only moving the Uighurs out of Camp X-Ray at Guantanamo Bay were so simple.
I’ll be keeping my ear to the ground for reaction to this story in Seattle, at Evergreen, and at the University of Washington. Solondz’s story manages to bind together any number of ambient themes — environmental protection, radicalism, legal systems and cooperation, and illegal commerce — that seem to be moving from the edges to the center of the U.S.-China relationship these days.