• Wed
  • Oct 22, 2014
  • Updated: 10:18am
PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 07 May, 2013, 10:52am
UPDATED : Thursday, 29 August, 2013, 4:13am

Chinese Maoist tour group ridiculed for travelling to North Korea

BIO

Patrick Boehler has published on China and Southeast Asia in four languages for publications in the US, Europe and Asia. After stints with Austria's ministries of defence and foreign affairs in Vienna and Beijing, he began his reporting career in Kuala Lumpur with the Malaysian online news portal Malaysiakini and, later, The Irrawaddy Magazine, a Myanmar exile publication in Thailand. He holds a doctorate in political science and has taught journalism at the University of Hong Kong. Follow him on Twitter: @mrbaopanrui
 

When a group of Chinese Maoists travelled to North Korea last month - visiting a country that still holds dear the social norms of an era now long gone in China - they didn't seem to know that one of their fellow travellers was keeping a diary that would appear in a liberal Guangdong magazine.

The Maoist nostalgics visited China's reclusive northeastern neighbour from April 13 to 16, when tensions between North and South Korea brought the peninsula to the brink of war. The tour was organised by people behind neo-Maoist website Utopia.

The trip was chronicled in a travel diary written for the Southern People Weekly. The anonymous traveller's depiction of the journey, however sarcastic, is a testament to how much ultra-leftists have adapted to the freedoms and affluence of modern China.

After visiting the demilitarised zone between North and South Korea, the group of apparently mostly retired Chinese officials, "seeing aspirations to contribute their strength to war efforts blighted, showed their fighting power when shopping", the traveller wrote.

The group spent several dozen thousand yuan at a souvenir store before heading back to Pyongyang.

"Whether leftists or rightists, when it comes to emptying [store] shelves, they are all the same, they are all Chinese," a traveller said, according to the writer.

"The fellow comrades have made an extraordinary contribution to the North Korean economy. I thank you on behalf of the North Korean people," the tour guide is quoted as saying.

The tour group then returned to the capital to participate in Day of the Sun festivities, which marked the anniversary of the birth of Kim Il-sung, the founder of North Korea and grandfather of current dictator Kim Jong-un. 

Utopia regularly organises tour groups. In December, a four-day trip to North Korea cost 4,800 yuan (HK$6,040).

Diao Weiming, the organiser of the "red tours", said he did not know about the Southern People Weekly report. He called it "childish".

"This young lad is just trying to make an ideological point," he said. 

The website Utopia, which last congratulated North Korea for its third nuclear test on March 12, has retained some relevance in political debate online. It was taken down in April, and searches for its Chinese name have been blocked on Sina Weibo, the country's largest microblogging platform.

Affiliate websites are still online, such as an online bookseller billed as "China's largest patriotic online bookstore", and a weibo account regularly publishes its statements.

Just last weekend, Maoists took to the streets in Changsha, capital of Mao Zedong's home province Hunan, to protest against a speech given there by the liberal economist Mao Yushi, calling him a traitor and that he should die "10,000 times".

Last year, Utopia claimed to have collected thousands of signatures calling for the public persecution of the hate figure for ultra-leftists.

Next up for the "red tours" is a seven-day trip to Vietnam this month, which includes a visit to Ho Chi Minh's grave and the Chinese embassy.

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