- - Thursday, December 18, 2014

In a rare display of open brotherly schism between Pyongyang and Beijing, China for the first time was not invited to participate in a major anniversary event held Dec. 17 in North Korea.

The occasion was the third anniversary of the death of Kim Jong-il, the former dictator and father of the current dictator Kim Jong-un. China has unfailingly been invited in the past decades to events such as this.

By Korean tradition, three years of mourning is the ultimate expression of filial piety toward one’s deceased parents, which makes this week’s commemorative event in Pyongyang also significant because it officially marks the beginning of the Kim Jong-un Era, theoretically free of parental shadows. The commemorative hoopla was immense, the largest mass event in the three years the younger Mr. Kim has been in power. Starting at midnight on December 17, all major propaganda and electronic news outlets in North Korea began to broadcast prolonged eulogies in memory of the late “Great Leader” Kim Jong-il. By early dawn, tens of thousands of people started to form long lines leading to the Kumsusan Palace of the Sun to pay tribute to the giant bronze statues of Kim Il-sung and Kim Jong-il, the grandfather and father, respectively, of the current “Dear Leader” Kim Jong-un.

While still North Korea’s only meaningful ally and chief aid provider, China has been critical of Pyongyang’s unbridled provocations in nuclear gambits and regards Mr. Kim as a junior partner in geopolitics, a partner not necessarily willing to coordinate with Beijing’s game-play strategy against common enemies in the region. China’s opportunistic hobnobbing with South Korea has also irked Pyongyang, which views China’s embrace of Seoul as politically unwise and ideologically perfidious. China regards South Korea as an important economic partner and a strategic ally in a relentless effort to isolate Japan and drive a wedge into the U.S.-led defense alliance in the region.

When asked about the affront of not being invited for the commemoration in Pyongyang, China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang woefully responded that “General Secretary Kim Jong-il was a great leader of the Korean communist party and the Korean nation. He made great contribution to developing Sino-Korean friendship and cooperation. We Chinese people miss him. But we respect the anniversary arrangement made by the Korean side.”

Nevertheless, being a big brother in the communist family, the CCP dispatched Liu Yunshan, one of the seven members of the Chinese Politburo, to the North Korean Embassy in Beijing for a small commemorative gathering — without any fanfare.

SEE ALSO: White House threatens ‘proportional’ response to North Korea cyberattacks on Sony Pictures

New Normal in Hong Kong

The end of 11 weeks of street protests demanding a meaningful electoral process has spooked the Hong Kong authorities in a way that may become the city’s “new normal.” There may be no more mass celebrations in public places any time soon, in a bid by officials to prevent a resurgence of street occupation by demonstrators.

Hong Kong is known in Asia for its New Year’s Eve celebratory extravaganza, but the Hong Kong government has quietly canceled all mass gatherings in public places this year in the wake of the momentous and debilitating popular demonstrations in the heart of the city.

This means the end of decades-long traditions in several places in Hong Kong, including the annual mass gathering and New Year’s Eve countdown to midnight at the Causeway Bay square, and the fireworks show at the Kowloon waterfront.

The democracy protest leaders have vowed to go back to the streets with a new wave of protests, at prominent public venues including the Hong Kong Government building, once the opportunity arrives. This has apparently spooked the Hong Kong leadership, handpicked by Beijing, who made the decision to cancel the public celebrations.

Hong Kong’s police force had enjoyed a good reputation as one of the most professional in the world. But the recent upheaval, when heavy crowd control measures were employed owing to political pressure from Beijing, has greatly tarnished that positive image.

According to official statistics, 955 demonstrators were arrested during the long standoff with police over the past 21/2 months. Harsh police actions, such as the use of tear gas, forcible dragging and beating of protesters, have resulted in 221 protesters and 130 police officers suffering injuries that required medical treatment. Subsequently, 1,972 complaints were filed by Hong Kong citizens against the police for the mishandling of protesters.

Miles Yu’s column appears Fridays. He can be reached at [email protected] and @Yu_miles.

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