Robert Park in the Chinese Press

American human rights rhetoric about North Korea tends to rest upon a self-sustaining paradox: in the view of vocal bloggers and conservative newspapers, the Chinese Communist Party is guilty of perpetuating North Korean human rights abuses, yet, the American advocates of regime change in Pyongyang  make few visible efforts to detect what Chinese people are reading about North Korea, or to gauge to what extent China is actually exhibiting signs of flexibility on the refugee issue.

Admittedly, Beijing moves on this issue with a speed that rivals the Vatican in its glacial aspect.  Yet, even glaciers can melt, and comments made recently by Xi Jinping in Seoul (as well as word on the street among scholars in Beijing) indicate that China is willing to reconsider its policy toward North Korean refugees.   Much more to the present point, in the last several years, PRC media consumers have been able to consume an increasingly wide array of stories about North Korea and are slowly getting a sense of the magnitude of the problem surrounding North Korean human rights abuses.  Certainly censorship still intrudes, and the discourse has limits, but the limits are slowly moving back.

This is one context into which I’d like to see the Robert Park story placed.

The Chinese press ultimately reported on Robert Park’s gambit and his original capture, but left unprinted the excerpts from Park’s 19th-century-style letter to Kim Jong Il demanding the latter’s repentance and the light of Christ to shine over liberated North Korea.  Xinhua and its adjuncts didn’t report on unverified rumors of Park’s having been beaten.  (Perhaps such reports, if they prove to be erroneous, indicate a certain propensity of the Chosun Ilbo to publish anything that makes North Korea look bad [not difficult], not to mention the fact that the U.S. government is helping to bankroll the [essential but sometimes wildly mistranslated] Daily NK.)  State Department efforts to get Park back in the U.S., with reference to the preexisting need for bilateral normalization between US and DPRK, were reported in the Huanqiu Shibao.

Then, on January 12, 2010, Yanbian security organs enlisted the aid of local media to track down someone who quite probably was Robert Park’s collaborator in Yanji.

Robert Park's collaborator in Yanbian?

As it happens, I was the only person writing in English to catch this at the time.  The arrest by Chinese authorities of Park’s partner, reported to be a former North Korean defector with South Korean citizenship in Yanji, was reported in English on January 18, 2010.

A short dispatch relaying KCNA’s announcement of another American intruder on January 25, 2010, was relayed a couple of days later by Xinhua, adorned by a few netizen comments which emphasized a typical pastiche of internet-induced thoughts, including that North Korea had the right to “kill these American devils.”

Now that he’s being released, we’re seeing a few short reports come through on Chinese websites, but no mention on the best Chinese DPRK blogs. The Park story made it onto CCTV, which carries a nine-second report on his release via 163.com along with a report that speculated that Park’s release was correlated with the American decision to keep the CPRK off of the State Department’s “state sponsors of terrorism” list.

On one of the more patriotic websites cited in the New York Times as being a venue for populist Chinese nationalism, editors put up a small photo gallery of Robert Park entitled “朝鲜扣押一名美国人 (North Korea Detains an American Person)” including this image which notes without anger that Park is seen “praying for North Korea” in Seoul:

Robert Park in Seoul, Dec. 12, 2009年12月9日,韩国,首尔:Robert Park为朝鲜祈祷。-- via Huanqiu

The gallery also contains the original Xinhua dispatch on Park’s arrival in the DPRK, which is rendered as follows, combining North and South Korean media reports on the incident.  Following procedure, local media in Jilin followed Xinhua’s lead:

据新华网:2009年12月29日,朝鲜中央通讯社报道说,朝鲜24日扣留了一名非法入境的美国人。报道说,这名美国人24日越过朝中边界线非法进入朝鲜境内,随即被扣留。目前有关机关正在进行调查。据韩国媒体报道,这名韩裔美国人名为罗伯特朴(韩国姓名为朴东勋),是一个名为“自由和生命2009”的人权组织的负责人。

Via Xinhuanet: On December 29, 2009, KCNA reported that North Korea apprehended an illegal American trespasser.  The report said that this American passed illegally over the Sino-Korean borderline to enter North Korean territory, and was thereafter apprehended.  Currently, relevant organs are investigating.  According to South Korean media reports, this person is an American of Korean descent named Robert Park (Pak Dongyun / 朴东勋 is his Korean name), and was a responsible member of the human rights organization “Freedom and Life 2009.”

But China can relay South Korean reports all it wants to, including quotes from Radio Free North Korea, Daily NK, and Good Friends (in short, the whole gamut of North Korean defector-sources): on sites like One Free Korea, China’s attitude toward the North Korean regime is locked in time.  And after all, castigating the “ChiComs” or evoke “Red China’s” reliably evil nature feels good, sort of like bathing in a big tub of Reagan-era engine oil which is miraculously still warm from the frictions of the Cold War.   Not only do the criticisms exert a certain mental comfort, persistent critiques of the PRC’s policy toward North Korea remain so much easier if the critics don’t bother to learn Chinese, much less read essays available in English which endeavor to illuminate the dynamic nature of what Chinese people are actually reading and saying about North Korea.

Mike Kim’s book Escaping North Korea is a perfect case in point: although the MBA-turned-missionary speaks fluent Korean, supposedly learned conversational Chinese, and lived for several years in the Sino-Korean border region (presumably Yanbian) there is virtually zero discussion in his book of Chinese points of view of the North Korean refugee issue.  Believe me, there are more Chinese perspectives on North Korea than those of bachelor farmers looking to buy North Korean fugitive wives!  Does it not matter what everyday Chinese (along the border, in Beijing, or elsewhere) think about North Korea policy, or what pressures the CCP is under to modify their policy, or that understanding regional dynamics of cooperation with, and apprehensions toward, North Korea among Chinese might be of some use toward common action on the refugee front?

Or would learning about  these things impede us from using our highly developed and particularly Euro-American skills of shaking the rhetorical stick at China?

If you can’t perceive incremental (much less rapid) changes which China itself is initiating, and then act to amplify those changes in concert with the Chinese, good luck in getting what you want, missionaries!

But I suppose this would mean we would have to view Yanbian as something other than a cloak-and-dagger launching pad for the Great North Korean Revolt/Awakening and settle for a somewhat slower yet inexorable pace of change.  Moreover, I’d be shocked if writers like Joshua Stanton were to spend any time at all on this blog (a website which is, we can only assume, authored by some apologist-Owen-Lattimore-wannabe) where Stanton might actually have access to some fragments of information about Chinese coverage of the North Korea issue that might lend some nuance, if not wholesale reconsideration, to his hopelessly Anglophone (but otherwise well-documented) reports.

In such a mode of silence, Robert Park walks out of the Beijing airport, shuffling where the rest of us run:

30 thoughts on “Robert Park in the Chinese Press

  1. So let me get this straight: if I walk across the Tumen River from China into North Korea on Chinese New Year Day then I get a complimentary vacation in Pyongyang with a a free flight to Beijing and a pick-up at the airport by US embassy personnel?

    God bless Kim Jong-il!

  2. The NYT may have described Huanqiu as patriotic and a populist venue for Chinese nationalism, but really, wouldn’t those descriptors fit all national internet forums like Sina? I’ve browsed a number of Huanqiu threads on the Koreas and didn’t find this photo essay remarkable, even the single reference to Park praying. Outside of official organs like the People’s Daily, there is a bit of candid discussion about China’s relationship with the Koreas, and Chinese people familiar with North Korea acknowledged how its government was extremely repressive and kept the country poor. Regardless of how Chinese people view North Korea, that doesn’t mean that China’s top leadership is going to change its policy on refugees. Even Chinese people sympathetic to the suffering of the North Korean people and to refugees hiding out in China did not want their country to loosen border controls, which might increase the number of refugees. You know as a Sinologist that Chinese people fear instability more than they fear repression, hence the Chinese government’s continued hold on power.

    I thought your dig at “hopelessly Anglophone” Joshua was unnecessary. I speak and read both Korean and Chinese, so does that make me more expert than you? Oh, wait, I haven’t held in my hands the personal papers of the late Premier Zhou En-lai, so I guess not. One snide comment deserves another. I like you and your blog. I just don’t like the tone of this post.

    1. Hi Sonagi, and thanks for the comments and the critques. I think what I’m getting at with this post is less the idea that China is on the cusp of a wholesale change with its refugee/border control policy than just to simply state that Chinese people have more information on this issue than is commonly acknowleged or thought about in the U.S. So it’s a bit of an auto-critique. But I don’t know Tim Peters or David Hawk, and I would assume that both of those individuals would not be bullish about the prospects for a change in Chinese policy toward North Korean refugees, particularly if the PRC had to amend or ignore its treaty obligations to the DPRK.

      It’s tough to refute your point here:
      Regardless of how Chinese people view North Korea, that doesn’t mean that China’s top leadership is going to change its policy on refugees. Even Chinese people sympathetic to the suffering of the North Korean people and to refugees hiding out in China did not want their country to loosen border controls, which might increase the number of refugees. You know as a Sinologist that Chinese people fear instability more than they fear repression, hence the Chinese government’s continued hold on power. In other words, we can talk all day about perceptions and information flows, but if the policy doesn’t change, does any of that matter?

      I suppose that in the final analysis I am simply searching for a different way to look at North Korea, having been pretty well sickened by the incessant US-DPRK nuclear drumbeat since adolescence and the flirtations with Sunshine policies of various stripes — Isn’t there an alternate prism through which to view the DPRK? And that’s where I see the Chinese question as at least having the potential to yield a different set of questions (and, perhaps, answers) that embrace but also go beyond the refugee issue. Of course one can read the stuff by the think-tanks and Carla Freeman and John Park and Scott Snyder to do this as well, but I have yet to read much media analyis, so your critiques in that area are particularly helpful.

      On the language front, if you can speak and read Korean fluently, then yes, I should be kowtowing to you, or at least be inherently interested in your channelling of information that I otherwise can’t get without much gnashing of teeth and strained vertebrae. I’m personally mired in an endless battle with Chinese, and actually pray for the day when people like yourself and Juchechosunmanse, or your revolutionary successors, will pounce on my sloppy translations, offering up scorching critiques of my reading of verbs like 扣押 (kouya) as “detained” rather than “apprehended” or whatever, and talking about the differences between 扣押 and 감굼하다 kamgumhada (which is more like the verb form of 监禁, jianjin/imprisonment according to my trusty Tumen-sourced, communized, and horribly misunderstood dictionary companion). Synthesizing the immense amount of English stuff out there is obviously an important (and a daunting) task which I can safely sit on the sidelines and complain about.

      Everyone has got different skill sets that we need to exploit and combine to get closer to some kind of complete picture of the DPRK. So of course I’m impressed with Joshua’s work, and I could also add that he has a J.D. and would run circles around me in the courtroom, but then I would have to add that I am able to kick his butt in the reading of bass clef (as music is arguably more interesting and just as important than law in restructuring and harmonizing post socialist societies), but then I would have to return to remind myself that I don’t testify before Congress or, generally, get quoted in the Wall Street Journal, which, I suppose, is all the more reason he should be making efforts to accurately characterize Chinese attitudes toward North Korea. Anyway…Your Zhou Enlai remark adds some spice and is appreciated, even, just for accuracy, if I mainly look at pdfs. of his stuff in that secure location in the Foreign Ministry in Beijing! I think that all of us, foremost myself, could learn something from the old Premier about common courtesy and setting up a limited “united front” where the goal, simply, is to know more about the given topic.

  3. “On the language front, if you can speak and read Korean fluently, then yes, I should be kowtowing to you, or at least be inherently interested in your channelling of information that I otherwise can’t get without much gnashing of teeth and strained vertebrae. “

    No, you shouldn’t. You and I are what I call language filters. That is, we sift through primary sources and translate what we choose. We are editors, a more innocent-sounding word than censors. The great thing about blogging is that there is so much more information being disseminated between languages. I like the work that you do in bringing into English Chinese-language web content relevant to northeast Asian issues. I don’t blog much anymore at The Marmot’s Hole. If you are in need of amateur translation of Korean-language content or if you’d like me to search for information, contact me anytime. Will translate for food. : )

    Sonagi

    1. Awesome. Thanks, Sonagi. (And sorry to take so long to get these recent comments up! Sunday was indeed a “day of rest” in Seattle.)

      I like this idea of a “language filter,” because there’s no way to read it all or, in my case, to represent any sliver of the totality, but hopefully the occasional translation or discussion of the Chinese media is helpful, especially to readers who don’t delve into that press/internet often or at all. And I appreciate the offer; if I have Korean-language issues or stuff I can’t find, I will definitely keep you appraised. Thanks again for the thoughtful comments.

  4. “I’m personally mired in an endless battle with Chinese, and actually pray for the day when people like yourself and Juchechosunmanse, or your revolutionary successors, will pounce on my sloppy translations, “

    And don’t EVER mention me in the same sentence with Juche. Is Juche, in fact, fluent in either Chinese or Korean? I wouldn’t make assumptions about his or her ethnic or linguistic background. For all we know, Juche could be a hopelessly Anglophone leftist.

    1. As for Juche, he did some blogging in Chinese on his site and translated an interview tith the head of (North) Korean Central Bank that was helpful for the currency conversion policy in the DPRK, and his is a relatively new site which I have enjoyed quite a bit; the other mysterious character who is definitely fluent in Chinese is “Spelunker”, whose comments on the Ling/Lee border controversy — mainly on One Free Korea, but also on the Liberate Laura blog — added quite a lot to the online conversation.

    2. Sonagi,

      I don’t know if I should be offended or flattered by that! Haha, a hopelessly Anglophone leftist? Actually I consider myself a centrist who is often sympathetic to the left. The far left sickens me as much as the far right does. The far left stupidly and conveniently blamed everything on Bush which is plain retarded.

      Like I said before, the left can be obnoxious too, but one thing the left consistently outshines the right (and in my opinion truly hopeless folks) is that the left seem to be able to remain at least a tad more humble and open-minded whereas the right/the conservatives are without failure stubborn, rigid, arrogant, assertive and self-righteous. They think they know everything and they hold answers/truth to all the questions out there. Moreover, I find the conservatives the most hypocritical bunch, you know those who preach “do as I say but not as I do” folks. The right/conservatives tend to be less educated folks who have a relatively narrow world view. If it ain’t white it is black. We are good and you are evil. We shall prevail and you shall perish. Thanks but no thanks!

      Out of curiosity, I think I must have developed my notoriety on Joshua Stanton’s site, right? I do frequent Marmot’s Hole and the ROK drop but have rarely commented there. Anyway, thank you for your compliment, Sonagi!

    3. JCM, I first saw your work on Stanton’s site in a duel over something or other — probably his dogmatic opposition to, or uncloseted desire to “rollback”, the PRC. As for the kind of Manachean/binary outlook you describe, I think it’s a serious barrier to creating actual change in the conditions for North Korean refugees in China. As Sidney Rittenberg says, you need to build up a relationship of trust with China in order to change it, and pulling stunts where China loses face (as in the US gov’t response to the Google affair, which was in the final analysis the CCP’s fault anyway) makes it more difficult to get what you want.

      So I’m glad you started your own blog and I’m hoping at somepoint to see if you have some writing on the whole Iran-China issue that has arisen of late. Personally, I think that China is reluctant to punish Iran for more than economic and security reasons — I think the CCP is quite enamored of the Iranian government’s method in cracking down on student protestors and doesn’t want to set a bad precedent for allowing the human rights/freedom angle to overtake other aspects.

      1. Adam,

        I don’t think it is a matter of building trust with China/the US or anyone. If you cast aside your preconceptions and open up your mind to truly study/analyze a country (whether be China, the US or anyone) and then afterwards you decide that you don’t want to trust it or you don’t want to have anything to do with it, that’s fine. To me it is just tragic that there are many people out there everywhere who let their preconceptions blind their senses so they just stop right there and be consumed by these preconceptions that are more than often stupid. China is an evil authoritarian state. All the DPRK leadership cares about is their own survival and they don’t give a rat’s ass about the well-being of the North Korean people. The US wants to dominate the world and take everyone hostage. Iran is posed to strike Israel upon going nuclear. You get the idea.

        I don’t have much interests with regard to the Iran saga, but I agree with you that “China is reluctant to punish Iran for more than economic and security reasons”. However I don’t think it is about cracking down on student protestors. The CCP is not worried about the students as most of them are on board with the government as they have been among the beneficiaries of the reform. The same can be said of the middle class. It is the underprivileged, 弱勢群體 that the CCP is really worried about. And they have been protesting for years. I think that China is not toeing the US/western line for two reasons: (1) It is not ready to give up its “和平共處五項原則” which is the bedrock of Chinese diplomacy and (2) China simply doesn’t want to be seen as actively working with the US/west in the eyes of the Muslim and developing world. China is not the stooge of the west. It will certainly work with the west on some issues where their interests converge but don’t expect China to coordinate all of its moves with Washington like the UK (or Namchosun) does. It will not happen.

  5. A great post, Adam.

    Sonagi,

    I agree with you that official Chinese DPRK policy will not change over night despite the increasingly burgeoning and pluralistic of views on that country. That’s said, I think the Chinese government is more mimble to public opinion than your average western commentators (especially those hopelessly consertive ones) would ever give credit for. Says who the DPRK policy will not change/adjust over time, gradually?

    Adam hit the nail on the head with this one. The west and its democracy-embracing, self-righteousness-sprouting allies (SK and India come to mind) tend to see China as a monolithic entity where the CCP (of course they are the same bunch of evil and ruthless guys who are so hell bent on oppressing everyone with not a shred of internal policy differences/debates at all) is calling all the shots and the brainwashed, ill-informed and nationalistic public is happily moving along, singing praises of the CCP and willing to invade and annex the DPRK tomorrow (yeah, let’s screw the pesky namchosunese and make the DPRK our “樂浪/玄菟/真番/臨屯朝鮮族自治區”!). After all this is the land of 13 billion “ChiComs”. Yes America should be afraid. Namchosun should be afraid. India should be afraid. You the free world should bomb Zhongnanhai and liberate China NOW!!

    It is ironic that on one hand some of the best China scholars are in the west (any in Namchosun by the way?) and one can convincingly argue that systematically the west knows a lot more about China and the rest of the world than vice versa; yet on the other hand the majority of the western commentators and media outlets are either too damn lazy or too damn incapable to not resort to the same kind of retarded practice that they have been doing for not decades but centuries: painting China with very broad strokes.

  6. The man in the photo could be in a unrelated crime. Check this police announcement by Yanbian PSB:

    http://www.ybga.gov.cn/show/2009-12-28-152.html

    The article has phone number so you may call them to verify.

    BTW, I got here via Danwei’s link. Good site.

    Do you read the chaoxian.com.cn forum? There are some quite interesting discussions going on there and several N.Korean folks writing actively in that forum, and they master fluent Chinese. Remember a lot people who are not Chinese actually comment on Chinese website so a random Chinese comment under a news may not reflect a Chinese thinking.

  7. “The west and its democracy-embracing, self-righteousness-sprouting allies (SK and India come to mind) tend to see China as a monolithic entity where the CCP (of course they are the same bunch of evil and ruthless guys who are so hell bent on oppressing everyone with not a shred of internal policy differences/debates at all) is calling all the shots and the brainwashed, ill-informed and nationalistic public is happily moving along, singing praises of the CCP and willing to invade and annex the DPRK tomorrow (yeah, let’s screw the pesky namchosunese and make the DPRK our “樂浪/玄菟/真番/臨屯朝鮮族自治區”!). “

    Obviously, there’s been no official public discussion of invading a collapsing DPRK, but Chinese netizens have debated the matter on Huanqiu and 163.com. Disagreements centered not on whether the invasion would violate China’s commitment to “non-interference” but on whether the invasion and occupation would be feasible and on whether to take over the whole country or just carve out a buffer.

    1. Sonagi,

      One can’t take those online discussions seriously. Often you see blood-boiling, chest-thumping patriotic/nationalistic youth gathering in places like Tiexue and Tianya discussing all sorts of military-related stuff (as in any other country) and some delve into crazy stuff like going to war with Vietnam over the Spratly Islands etc. Funny that the government of Vietnam was bothered by it. And a while ago some random netizen posted an article advocating the breaking-up of India, the Indians were so insecure that they actually saw that as proof that the Chinese government is onto something. Personally I have not seen much of a discussion at all on the subject of invading the DPRK as I take most Chinese, even the netizens are just indifferent toward the DPRK. It ranks every low on their radar. Why would China want to invade and annex it? What will China gain from such a move, risking antagonizing 80 million Koreans around the world (I am one of those who believe the unified Korea will become a serious player to be reckoned with. Japan, watch out!)? Does China want to bath itself in international condemnation? Does China want to risk shattering the peace it has enjoyed in the past several decades which enabled it to get to where it is today? Does China want to give the west legitimate reasons to further contain and undermine it? Does China seriously believe that the pros of conquering the DPRK outweigh the cons? I will be the first to say that the Chinese leadership can be quite clueless at times, but I don’t think they are that stupid. So far the talk/suggestion/fear of China invading and annexing the DPRK almost comes exclusively from the South Korean security/intelligence community, which in my opinion is pure paranoia.

    2. @Juche:

      Thanks for reminding me that I shouldn’t take anonymous netizen chatter seriously. You’ve posed some interesting questions, some of which were discussed in the meaningless netizen chatter which, BTW, was found on a military buffs’ forum:

      “Why would China want to invade and annex it? What will China gain from such a move, “

      The main concern among the netizens was the prospect of either the South Korean military, or worse, the US military on the Chinese border. There were also concerns about instability – refugees pouring into China or lawlessness in a neighboring country.

      “So far the talk/suggestion/fear of China invading and annexing the DPRK almost comes exclusively from the South Korean security/intelligence community, which in my opinion is pure paranoia.”

      I don’t think any of the netizens on the Chinese military forum were army generals, but I don’t think they were South Korean Fifty Won Party internet manipulators either. A number of China and North Korean watchers of different nationalities have discussed possible Chinese military responses to a collapsing DPRK. It’s not paranoia. It’s a real possibility, and one that interested Chinese netizens appear to support, not because they want to annex North Korea permanently but because they want their government and their military to protect Chinese interests should a weak neighbor fall.

      1. Sonagi,

        Sure, some of those concerns are legitimate (like preventing an exodus of NK regufees pouring into China and not letting the Americans reach the Yalu), but I don’t think those who advocating for invading the DPRK to pre-emt a US/South Korean invasion of the DPRK have thought it through. A Chinese invasion of the DPRK will automatically trigger (I guarantee it) a US/SK invasion. What does China do then? Is the PLA ready to fight the Americans head on? Also, I would never “undermisestimate” (to quote one of my favorite presidents) the North Koreans. They are a very nationalistic bunch. If we were to believe what Daily NK had told us and I do, China is the greater of the two evils (and the US is the lesser one of the two) the PLA will not have an easier job than the Japanese once had to pacify the Koreans in the DPRK. Seriously I ask you, Sonagi and everyone who think that such a move (a Chinese invasion) is not only possible but viable, what exactly does China gain from it? If China wants to prevent the North Koreans from spilling over they can beef up their secuirty along the North Korean border and ask the SK government to make every effort to keep the North Koreans where they are. If the Chinese are afraid of a US presence in northern Korea they can certainly list it (not allowing the Americans to station beyond the DMZ)as one of the conditions under which China will be willingly to cooperate with the SK government to induce/produce a Korean unification. I am not saying China will gain nothing at all from invading the DPRK, I am just saying the cons far outweigh the pros and it is simply not viable for China.

        Those online discussions aside (which in my opinion can’t be taken seriously at all), where have you seen anyone bringing up a possible Chinese invasion of the DPRK? I have only seen the South Koreans talking about it. For some reason this possibility/scenario even hit the SK government radar as I think they seriously believe this might just happen.

        1. Everyone needs to read Scott Snyder’s recent work China and the Two Koreas to get a good sense of China’s strategic goals. Military intervention is not in the cards!

      2. “Seriously I ask you, Sonagi and everyone who think that such a move (a Chinese invasion) is not only possible but viable, what exactly does China gain from it?”

        I believe you have confused my opinion with my citations of Chinese netizen opinions. I think a Chinese military incursion into a collapsing North Korea is possible. I do not think it is viable.

        “Those online discussions aside (which in my opinion can’t be taken seriously at all), where have you seen anyone bringing up a possible Chinese invasion of the DPRK? I have only seen the South Koreans talking about it. “

        The CSIS put out a report a couple of years ago, claiming that unnamed Chinese sources had provided information for the report. The CSIS report got media coverage and attention from northeast Asia watchers.

        Of course, the Chinese government is not going to discuss publicly any future scenarios regarding the DPRK. Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence. For the PRC not to consider any military response to an imploding DPRK would be uncharacteristically short-sighted, and for South Korea, Japan, Russia, and the US not to consider the possibility of a Chinese military response in their scenarios would be short-sighted.

        1. Everything is a possibility. But the chances of that happening is are extremely slim, in my opinion.

          Sure we may never know what the Chinese government is cooking. I will say though that a military response most likely will involve preparing for battling some KPA elements gone rogue and a possible spill-over of US/SK forces.

  8. “Do you read the chaoxian.com.cn forum? There are some quite interesting discussions going on there and several N.Korean folks writing actively in that forum, and they master fluent Chinese. Remember a lot people who are not Chinese actually comment on Chinese website so a random Chinese comment under a news may not reflect a Chinese thinking.”

    I did have a look at that site awhile ago. Seems to be down at the moment. You are quite right that non-ethnic Chinese occasionally comment in Chinese forums. A Global Voices contributor once posted a translation of a Chinese post praising Kim Jong-il and cajoling the Chinese leadership to be more like him. The GV translator included only comments agreeing with the OP and ignored the comments ridiculing KJI and North Korea. Chinese netizens mostly lampoon the formerly fat stroke victim, so I wondered about the nationality of the OP writer and the commenters who agreed. North Korea may very well have its own Fifty Cent Party active in Chinese forums.

    1. I would like to see much more DPRK-related stuff on Global Voices; if links are to be found, please post! I’m hoping to do some stuff for them in the coming months, in any event.

  9. off-topic question: Any plans to blog Chinese news outlets’ and netizen reactions to the subversion conviction and 5-year sentence handed down to Tan Guoren? Since I’ve got the day off from school and need to brush up on my Chinese, I might browse Huanqiu and 163.com.

    1. Oops, I meant Tan Zuoren. No relevant BBS threads on the main portals. Some chatter on uni BBSes but none accessible without logins. I did find one interesting thread on a US-hosted website. Most of the commenters were from Sichuan with a few from the US or elsewhere in China. Boy, are they angry with this miscarriage of justice.

      1. For the non-blogging set, the Voice of America has some amazing call-in radio programs where mainland listeners dial up (to a domestic number in China) and let loose.

        On Tan, this is precisely the kind of thing that presents a kind of grisly counterargument to the idea that the road to improved rights for North Korean refugees lies in encouraging a discourse of human rights in China. Legal rights consciousness among the populace is one thing, but locking up Tan Zuoren for a dozen years for writing about 1989 can’t be encouraging for anyone.

      2. 12 years? He got 5 and while the charge related to his writings about Tiananmen, it’s thought among Chinese and the international community that the real reason the government went after Tan was his investigative work into shoddy construction of schools that collapsed in the earthquake. The issue of construction-related corruption resonates far more with ordinary Chinese than Tiananmen, which only intellectuals feel free and interested in examining. All the angry net chatter I’ve read has focused on Tan’s advocacy of the child victims of collapsed buildings, and much of it is coming from Sichuanese.

        1. Right on the Sichuan thing, but the sentence itself focused on his Tiananmen writings, which was another signal that — at least according to the CCP — Ai Weiwei, his type, and everyone else, is supposed to put the school earthquake issue down the memory hole.

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