HONG KONG—Chinese netizens have reacted angrily to a visit to China by North Korean leader Kim Jong Il, with large numbers taking part in a campaign on Twitter titled “Kim Jong Il, get out of China!”
Kim arrived in Beijing on Wednesday and was expected to meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao later in the day.
Netizens lashed out at Kim for occupying the presidential suite at the Furama Hotel in the northeastern port city of Dalian, which costs 16,000 yuan (U.S. $2,300) per night, more than the annual per capita economic output of North Korea.
Chinese commenters on the microblogging service Twitter also criticized the wastefulness of the huge limousine motorcade that followed Kim, saying the money spent on the motorcade was taken from the "flesh and blood" of the North Korean people.
Xiamen-based blogger Peter Guo wrote in English under the hashtag #KimGetOut, “Kim Jong Il, get out! get out! get out!”—a tweet passed around Chinese cyberspace for the rest of the day.
In an interview, Guo said he favors Twitter-based campaigns for when netizens want to make a political point. “Personally I really support this sort of action,” Guo said.
“It’s possible to organize lightning campaigns online, actions that express one’s own point of view. So I was very happy to take part, because I really do loathe Kim Jong Il,” he said.
“Campaigns like this let people know that Chinese netizens really are disgusted with Kim Jong Il ... [North Korean] propaganda is shameless, because it turns black into white.”
Kim’s first visit to China in four years comes amid renewed tensions on the Korean Peninsula in the wake of the sinking of a South Korean warship in late March.
Pyongyang has denied any involvement, but the South Korean government suspects the ship was torpedoed by the North.
Sources in the official Chinese media said Beijing’s powerful central propaganda department had issued a directive regarding Kim’s trip.
“Any reports or news items about Kim Jong Il’s visit to China should use only centrally approved media reports and should turn off the comments section [if posted online],” the directive said.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Jiang Yu was noncommittal about the visit at a regular news conference Tuesday.
“China and North Korea are friendly neighbors, and we will do our best to continue to develop good neighborly and friendly relations with North Korea,” she said.
On Twitter, user “Secretary Zhang” said netizens are using the only channel available to them to express their feelings about the reclusive North Korean leader.
“We would like to have the same rights that they have in free countries, to be able to oppose things, to be able to shout slogans and to take to the streets. We don’t have that right. All we can do is vent online,” the user wrote.
Hong Kong-based media commentator and veteran Korea watcher Lee Kwok-sing said Kim’s possible return to six-nation talks aimed at denuclearization of the Korean peninsula was probably one reason behind the secret visit.
“The conditions [for his return] haven't yet been agreed to by China's top leadership. That’s why he is visiting China again at this time, in order to hold meetings with Chinese leaders,” Lee said.
“Another thing is that he wants the Chinese Communist Party to recognize his designated successor, his son. He probably took him with him on this trip, so they could get a closer look at him.
China’s top nuclear negotiator Wu Dawei has said that China—host of the talks that also involve North and South Korea, Japan, Russia, and the United States—wants to resume the dialogue by the end of June.
China potentially wields great influence on North Korea as the country's largest provider of food and fuel aid.
But if investigations confirm Pyongyang’s involvement in the sinking of the 1,200-ton Cheonan, in which 40 crew members died, this could prove a further obstacle for negotiations.
Original reporting in Mandarin by Xin Yu. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Translated from the Mandarin and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.