Hotels Turn Away South Koreans, Chinese Smash Goods as Missile Row Widens

2017-03-13
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Police break up anti-South Korea protests in Chengdu, Sichuan, in an undated photo.
Police break up anti-South Korea protests in Chengdu, Sichuan, in an undated photo.
Photo courtesy of an RFA listener

Hotels in northeastern China said they are refusing to take South Korean guests on Monday, while protesters elsewhere in the country filmed themselves smashing goods from South Korea in an ongoing row over Seoul's deployment of a U.S. missile defense shield.

Residents of the northeastern Chinese city of Hunchun in Jilin province said anti-Korean sentiment is running high in the town.

"For example, a lot of [South Korean] goods have been taken off the shelves of the supermarkets," one Hunchun resident told RFA on Monday. "Either that or nobody's ordering alcoholic drinks from [South Korea] any more."

"Basically it's that sort of thing," the resident said.

Sources said hotels in the city are refusing to take guests from South Korea, after its government began deploying the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) antimissile system last week.

The move has drawn strong diplomatic protests from Beijing, and sparked demonstrations and store closures at outlets of the South Korea retail chain Lotte across China.

An employee who answered the phone at a hotel in Hunchun confirmed the report.

"We're not accepting [South Korean guests] either," the employee told RFA on Monday. "Not for the time being."

An employee at a second hotel said she wasn't authorized to turn guests away.

"But if some South Korean nationals wanted to stay here, I'd have to check with my boss," she said.

Cruise ship

On Saturday, all 3,400 Chinese passengers refused to disembark from a cruise ship after it docked at popular tourist destination Jeju Island.

Some 80 tour buses were lined up to take them around the island, but the guests opted to stay aboard the Costa Serena cruise ship for four hours before it headed to the northern Chinese port of Tianjin, Chinese media reported.

The nationwide anti-Korean protests appear to have been fueled by rising nationalist sentiment on social media.

One passenger tweeted to their Weibo account: "The itinerary was set a long time ago before the THAAD incident, but we have chosen to support our country."

"Everyone in our company is of one mind on this and we have had a lot of approval from Chinese people online," the passenger wrote.

"They approved of us 'annoying them to death from across the sea' and thanked us for saving China's face," the tweet said.

Meanwhile, video footage circulating online showed men in black clothing smashing up packets of South Korean food in a supermarket.

Another showed black-clad men smashing a South Korean-made washing machine on the streets, watched by a few dozen people, while the Chinese national anthem blared from nearby speakers.

Another video of lines of military vehicles parked by a roadside claimed to illustrate a build-up of People's Liberation Army troops near the border with North Korea. RFA was unable to verify the footage independently.

Reining in protests

There are signs, however, that the authorities are moving to contain the protests, for fear that they may get out of hand.

"I think they are moving to ban this sort of thing now," a journalist who gave only his surname Chen told RFA following reports that authorities in the northern province of Hebei have already detained one person in connection with protests at a Lotte store.

"I think it was [the government] who initiated these things, who incited people to [protest]," he said.

"But they are also worried that they will lose control of the situation and perhaps that it might become something different, like a protest by ordinary people against the Chinese government."

"Another thing is that they are worried that the protests might affect other foreign businesses, as a lot of foreign investors are leaving China right now because they don't think it's a favorable investment environment," Chen said.

Current affairs commentator Jia Pin agreed, saying the Maoist left in China is a force to be reckoned with for the administration of President Xi Jinping.

"Mass movements have been a favorite method of the Chinese leadership in recent years, but they are also afraid that they will turn into a genuine mass movement," Jia said.

"There is a hard-left element in these things that is very extreme," he said. "Once they come out onto the streets, the government wouldn't be able to control things, and that's not an outcome that they would wish to see."

"On the other hand, the government can't pass up this opportunity to put pressure on South Korea, but things are getting embarrassing now," he said.

Reported by Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Wong Siu-san and Wong Si-lam for the Cantonese Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.

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Anonymous Reader

Anti-foreign incitement commonly occurs in mainland China's state-run and state-controlled media. Today it's South Korea, while tomorrow it might be Japan, the US, some other Western country, or Vietnam. Vicious ultra-nationalism is a negative policy by any government over the long run as it reflects more poorly on the one doing the denunciation than the one being yelled at.

Mar 15, 2017 03:32 PM

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