Prominent Maoist Editor Among Chinese Who Died in North Korean Bus Crash

Diao Weiming was also the manager of a 'revolutionary' travel agency leading commemorative tours to the isolated Stalinist regime.

Kim Jong Un (C) speaks to an injured Chinese tourist at a hospital at an undisclosed location in North Korea, April 23, 2018.

The editor of a prominent Maoist website was the tour leader, and among the 36 people killed when their tour bus crashed in North Korea at the weekend, RFA has learned.

The tour to the secretive Stalinist regime had been run by a company known as Spark Travel operated by the leftist website Utopia, and Diao Weiming, its editor-in-chief, was killed in Sunday's crash in North Hwanghae province, the company confirmed on Wednesday.

"Yes, that's right, it was our tour group," an employee who answered the phone at Spark Travel said.

Asked if Diao, who is also the general manager of Spark Travel, had died in the crash, she said: "Yes, that's right, he did."

She said the company is still awaiting further news on handling the aftermath of the accident, which North Korean leader Kim Jong Un said brought him "uncontrollable grief."

Kim visited the two Chinese survivors of the crash in hospital this week, and visited the Chinese Embassy in Pyongyang to "express his deep sympathy," North Korean state media reported.

The "unexpected accident brought bitter sorrow to his heart and that he couldn't control his grief at the thought of the bereaved families who lost their blood relatives," the official KCNA news agency reported.

Thirty-two Chinese tourists were killed in the crash, according to the foreign affairs ministry in Beijing. Four North Koreans were also among the dead. China said it had sent a "working group," including medical personnel, to North Korea in the wake of the accident.

The Spark Travel website bills its North Korea tours as a symbol of the "great friendship cemented by the blood relationship between the people of China and the DPRK."

"Travel deep into this mysterious country; to the cities, countryside and schools of North Korea, and remember the volunteer martyrs," the website says, in a reference to the People's Volunteers, Chinese troops who fought on the communist side during the Korean War (1950-1953).

"Visit the beautiful mountains of Korea, and feel the tensions at the 38th parallel," it says.

The tour group had departed the northeastern Chinese city of Dandong for North Korea on Apr. 18 for a seven-day "revolutionary tour" costing 5,900 yuan per person.

Maoist left

The Maoist left in China is sometimes unhappy with rampant official corruption and the growing gap between the ruling elite and the people, a stance which has left them at odds with the ruling Chinese Communist Party at times.

The administration of President Xi Jinping has shut down a number of Maoist websites in recent years, including Utopia, but has generally allowed them to re-open after politically sensitive events, such as the trial of leftist icon and former Chongqing party chief Bo Xilai in 2013.

However, Utopia's main site was unavailable at its usual web address on Wednesday.

Prominent leftist and Peking University professor Kong Qingdong tweeted his condolences and grief over the bus crash earlier this week, but his post was later deleted by government censors.

Most the some 100,000 people who visit North Korea as tourists annually are Chinese nationals. Tourists may only travel on predetermined and choreographed tours, and are generally under the watchful eye of officials at all times.

Reported by Yang Fan for RFA's Mandarin Service. Translated and edited by Luisetta Mudie.