In Hong Kong, the local pro-democracy groups got millions of locals into the streets to protest government efforts to further erode the “special system” that has governed Hong Kong since 1999 when the British left and Hong Kong became a “special autonomous zone” within China. While this agreement was popular with most Hong Kong residents the Chinese government saw the special treatment as something to be discarded as soon as possible. While Hong Kong was an enormous economic asset, the Chinese government saw the pro-democracy attitudes to the Hong Kong residents as a threat. Over the last five weeks, the government received another reminder of how important freedom is to those who see it threatened.
The current round of popular protests began on June 4th when Hong Kong was the only place in China were thousands of people could gather to commemorate the 30th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre. Hong Kong is the only place in China where you can do a lot of things. Tiananmen was a spontaneous 1989 demonstration that scared Chinese officials a great deal as they saw it as potentially the start of a Chinese version of the 1989 collapse of communist rule in East Europe. Every year at this time Chinese Internet censors are noticeably more active in a continuing effort to keep any news of the 1989 uprising from the Chinese public. Any discussion of the savage crackdown has been banned since 1989 and the government has been successful at keeping most Chinese from knowing the details or caring much about it. However many Chinese are aware that something happened. There are many nasty aspects of Chinese history that the Chinese are dimly aware of but not particularly curious about. In China, there is a lot to forget and good reasons for doing so. The 30th anniversary was notable in that Chinese censors apparently noted that the forbidden Tiananmen related chatter in Chinese Internet and cell phone networks (both of them monitored, and often actively censored) had increased. This prompted senior officials to break their usual silence about Tiananmen and insist that the crackdown made it possible for the Chinese economy to continue growing. The censors noted that these announcements did not have the desired effect. Memory wipes are an ancient Chinese practice and often remarkably effective. But during the last few generations researchers have been uncovering more details about some of the ancient sages, philosophers and such who were thought effectively wiped from the historical record. Modern technology (lots more records and copies of them, better tools to search and find data) has made the old school memory wipes much less effective. The memory of Tiananmen persists and seems to be getting stronger.
The “Remember Tiananmen Square” demonstration prompted many to remember that in 2006 over 20,000 Hong Kong residents demonstrated in favor of full democracy for the former British colony. China tolerates this activity in Hong Kong, but not elsewhere in China. That's because pro-democracy demonstrations of up to half a million people have taken place in Hong Kong, but no violent attempts to overthrow Chinese control have occurred.
Since the late 1990s, residents of Hong Kong have been pressuring China to live up to its promises to allow democracy in the city. China continues to select city leaders, rather than allowing the promised elections. Many in Taiwan, who favor union with China because of promises that Taiwan could keep its democratic system, are dismayed at what's going on in Hong Kong. The Chinese leadership apparently does not care and is rather pleased with the intimidating effect of using military force in Hong Kong.
China could crack down on Hong Kong any time it chose to. There would be chaos and large economic costs but Hong Kong would take a few years to become part of the south China economic zone that has become the location for many new industries and a booming economy. Not nearly as prosperous as Hong Kong (before a crackdown) but catching up. Yet Hong Kong has been allowed to retain most of its freedoms and there are a number of practical reasons for that. Persuading Taiwan residents that agreeing to become part of China could be beneficial is reinforced as long as the Hong Kong arrangements remain largely intact. During the two decades after the British left in 1997, Taiwan residents watched how Hong Kong handled its absorption into China and noted that it was not a disaster. Thus the growing number of Taiwanese who were not violently opposed to becoming part of China. This accounts for the lack of enthusiasm for spending billions to upgrade military defenses. Many Taiwanese fall back on the attitude that the United States will save them if China attacks, ignoring the fact that China is building up sufficient forces to grab all, or most, of the island before the Americans can get there. At the same time, there is the fact that China has continually sought to violate the 1997 agreement bit by bit until Hong Kong was like the rest of China and living compliantly under full police state control.
Such control would include eliminating the ability of Hong Kong residents to freely access the global Internet. The rest of China is constrained by the Great Firewall of China (or Golden Shield). For Hong Kong, their Internet freedoms have, over the last five years, become more important as China grows more capable of curbing them. By 2014 there were over 650 million Internet users in China, about 43 percent of the population. Yet in Hong Kong 73 percent had access and it remained free while the rest of China saw the restrictions grow. To put Hong Kong Internet use in perspective during 2014 some 81 percent of Americans were online, while in Japan it was 79 percent, Russia was 54 percent and India was 13 percent. China was on its way to becoming the largest national Internet community on the planet and most of it is behind the Great Firewall. The first Chinese web page went live on the Internet in 1994. Internet growth was slow at first in China but after the 1990s it rapidly accelerated. By 2004 there were 87 million Internet users and while that was only seven percent of the population, it was a very well off and a well-educated fraction of the population. Sixty percent of them were male, and 54 percent were 24 years old, or younger. Moreover, these Internet users were found throughout China, meaning that any information the government did not want distributed could now get past the censors and to the general population. The government had already begun investing heavily in software and hardware to control what Chinese Internet users could access. But these censorship techniques have not stopped stories that do the most damage. If there is an event that would embarrass the government, it got through to most Internet users, and this has increasingly caused the government to respond to the public will. Despite all the censorship, the number of web users has grown rapidly during the last decade and “banned news” still leaks past the Great Firewall.
The Golden Shield organization has been creative in dealing with unruly Chinese Internet users. For example, Golden Shield employs a large number of full and part-time Internet trolls. These are the often annoying people who crop up in many comments sections where China is being criticized (or described accurately) and attempt to defend China or whatever China has done. For example, the current Hong Kong demonstrations are described by the Golden Shield trolls as spoiled, misled students who are probably corrupt (or whatever) as well. The trolls have little to do inside China, where Golden Shield operatives can simply delete any discussions deemed improper. Users who do not get the message can be arrested and imprisoned for slander, treason, bad breath or whatever. Outside of China, the trolls have to be more creative but many are not and the trolls are generally obvious and annoying, even more so because they do attract some locals who will agree with them and that’s what the trolls are paid to do.
In 2014 Hong Kong conducted a referendum on greater democracy for Hong Kong. Some 22 percent of registered voters cast electronic ballots (using their government ID) in the non-binding poll. Most people voted for more democracy. China controls who can be allowed to run for office in Hong Kong and directly appoints many officials. Government controlled media condemned the vote, but Hong Kong does have enough autonomy to get away with this sort of protest, and many others besides. As long as there is no violence the government tolerates it. Over the past five years, there were more demonstrations, involving more and more people and there was more violence.
China did not want to endure the domestic and international backlash that would accompany a severe (sending large numbers of activists to jail and some “disappearances”) crackdown on the pro-democracy movement. For one thing, it would be bad for business. But more democracy would be bad for the communist government, which would lose power in a democracy. Most people in Hong Kong and a growing number in the rest of China believe that democracy should be given a chance. These Chinese have noted how so many Western ideas have benefitted China, often after some modifications to suit local needs. Why not democracy as well? After all, it works in Taiwan and Singapore. To the Chinese government, this is very dangerous thinking. Since 2014 China has tried to slowly and quietly eliminate the many freedoms granted to Hong Kong in 1997 and that effort has now backfired in s spectacular way with larger and larger demonstrations in Hong Kong making it clear what the 7.5 million locals thought about their freedoms.
At the same time, China was constantly reminded of how lucrative those freedoms were to China. For example in 2014 the Global Competitiveness Report ranked China 28 out of 148 countries. Each nation was scored on how well it did in areas like education, government effectiveness, technology, market efficiency, infrastructure and acceptance of innovation. Corruption, more than anything else, is what harms global competitiveness. Some nearby nations did much better in these worldwide rankings. Singapore was number 2, Japan 6, Hong Kong 7, Taiwan 14, Malaysia 20, Thailand 31 and India 71. In five years those ratings have not changed much at all. Most of the top twenty are Western nations. The U.S. is 1, Israel is 20 and most of those in between are nations with democratic governments and less corruption than China suffers from. The Chinese government wants China to become more like Hong Kong in some ways (like competitiveness) but does not want to loosen the police state control the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) exercises over China, but not so much over Hong Kong. China has a choice to make and it does not like the options.
In 2014 there were escalating demonstrations for more democracy but by the end of the year the government efforts to suppress the demonstrations prevailed. That did not eliminate the local enthusiasm for democracy, it did persuade the pro-democracy groups to develop new tactics, which they did. Meanwhile, the government proceeded with plans to make Hong Kong more like China, especially a new law that made it possible to extradite Hong Kong residents to China for prosecution and punishment. This was a big deal and it brought out more demonstrators than ever before and, for the moment, halted implementation of the new extradition law. Today Hong Kong officials announced that the extraction proposal was dead and efforts to amend a version of it were dead as well.
China finds itself on the defensive more and more even though they have been aggressive in their territorial and economic expansion. Actually, that aggressiveness, especially because China was also aggressive about exercising control over its own media, makes it difficult for China to make an effective response to all the anti-Chinese attitudes towards Chinese expansion efforts. Threats are less effective when the major critic is the United States, which has been the victim of a lot of the Chinese trade and espionage misbehavior. The American media, and especially the current American leader, are quick to comment on Chinese behavior, which is usually misbehavior to some Chinese neighbors or distant trading partners. Chinese rulers also have a lot to answer for in the way they have mismanaged and often abused their own citizens. Most Chinese are reminded of this daily via air, water and other pollution as well as the corruption of local and national officials. Many Chinese kept quiet because the country was undergoing three decades of unprecedented economic growth and more Chinese were becoming more prosperous (or at least no longer extremely poor) than ever before in Chinese history. But now the growth is ending and the many problems still remain. Most Chinese understand that their government treats foreigners about the same as they treat Chinese and can understand the anger of the foreigners. The old excuses that China was exploited and mistreated for centuries no longer work as well as they used to. For one thing, Chinese and foreign scholars note that “foreign exploitation” was largely self-inflicted and made possible by generations of inept Chinese rulers. Chinese subjects living under similar leaders now can understand this explanation for the centuries when China was on the defensive economically and militarily to the western barbarians. Many Chinese see their leaders are more interested in the wealth and security of the ruling class (the senior Chinese Communist Party officials and their corporate cronies) than anyone else (Chinese or foreign). The much better educated (than ever before) Chinese population is capable of seeing through and past government propaganda and realizing that taking on the world is not a wise move. But that is the situation their government has got China into. Chinese leaders played the nationalism angle heavily over the last two decades and while that generated a lot of popular support inside China it turned off the rest of the world and, ultimately, a growing number of Chinese as well.
July 8, 2019: The United States officially approved the sale of $2.2 billion of weapons to Taiwan. China opposed this sale as China has regularly done since the 1970s. The Americans are no longer inclined to pay much attention to the Chinese protests and instead see the protests as a major reason for approving Taiwanese requests.
July 7, 2019: Another indication that the Chinese economy was in retraction mode was the fact that Chinese venture capital firms were, in early 2018, seemingly about to displace American firms as the largest source of venture capital. Yet over the last 16 months, Chinese venture capital activity has plummeted by more than 50 percent. There is no longer enough surplus capital sloshing around in China to support major venture capital activity. The Chinese government does not want to talk about it.
July 5, 2019: Today is the 10th anniversary of the widespread violence in the West China city of Urumqi as Turkic Chinese fought each other in the streets of the capital for nearly a week. This event had major consequences for Chinese Moslems. It all began five years ago in western China, where Turkic Uighurs are the largest minority (but a decade before that were a majority. Small demonstrations, protesting the death of two Uighurs in a clash with Han (Chinese), escalated into widespread violence against the Han migrants to western China (Xinjiang province). Violence quickly spread from provincial capital Urumqi (population 2.3 million, most of them Han), to the city of Kashgar. Xinjiang province has 20 million people, 45 percent Uighur, but with a growing Han minority of 41 percent. The rest of the population is other minorities. The day after the Urumqi unrest began the government announced that already 156 had died and over 800 were injured. Over 1,400 people, mostly Moslems, had been arrested. The government was less eager to report that by the 7th Han mobs in Urumqi, armed with clubs and knives, went into Uighur neighborhoods seeking revenge. Up until then most of the dead and wounded had been Han. In response to this ethnic violence by the 8th several brigades of troops began arriving in Urumqi. The soldiers broke up Han or Uighur mobs and arrested anyone they could catch. These troops reinforced the thousands of riot police and ordinary police that had been rushed to Urumqi before the army brigades arrived. By the 9th, four days after the first violence, shops are open and public transit operating in Han neighborhoods, but not in Uighur areas. The police and army presence was heavy, with trucks full of troops patrolling. The degree of stability imposed on Urumqi was tested on the 13th when police shot and killed two armed (with knives) Uighur men in Urumqi. This did not trigger more rioting, because of the heavy army and police presence in the city. Thus began a decade or more and more security measures and surveillance efforts that have been so effective in Xinjiang province that the government now plans to install this system throughout China. Foreigners seeking to enter Xinjiang are forced to allow the installation of special tracking and monitoring software on their Android smartphones. This is what most Xinjiang residents must have on their phones. There is a growing community of Chinese hackers that have developed ways to defeat the phone trackers and the growing presence of the surveillance system, but few tourists are aware of this and if they are, the advice they are given by the Chinese hackers is to stay away from these workarounds while in China.
The government has always exercised considerable control over the media and that means little mention of this 10th anniversary in China. Worse, for Chinese Moslems, was the fact that there was little criticism of Chinese treatment of its Moslems by Moslem majority nations. Even Turkey, which, since the Soviet Union fell apart in 1991, has sought to support fellow Turks in Central Asia, heeded Chinese advice. Because of Chinese diplomatic and financial pressure, Turkey agreed to treat the Turkic Uighurs as Chinese not Turks and ignore Uighurs and whatever was happening to them in China. The rest of the Moslem world was persuaded by China to do likewise. China applied the same methods to their mistreatment of Chinese Christians and nearly the same degree of success with potential critics in Christian majority nations.
July 3, 2019: The U.S. accused China of recently test firing anti-ship missiles (both cruise missiles and ballistic missiles) in the South China Sea and implied that this was a Chinese demonstration of what could happen to those who resist Chinese claims on most of the South China Sea. China denied that it was trying to intimidate anyone in the South China Sea and that China was simply trying to protect Chinese territory.
July 2, 2019: The government issued a security alert for Chinese merchant vessels planning to move through the Strait of Malacca. The government gave no specifics but apparently the Chinese fear an Indonesian Islamic terror group has been planning such attacks. There was an increase in such attacks (mainly by pirates, some of whom were also Islamic terrorists) a few years ago. But combined action by local government (Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore) caused the piracy incidents to decline by about 90 percent. Yet the anti-piracy patrols and local intelligence work continues and this may have generated a warning to China that there was a threat.
June 27, 2019: In southeastern Congo (Lualaba province), about 40 people were killed in a copper and cobalt mine collapse. The mine is on the Tenke Fungurume copper and cobalt mining concession which is owned by China Molybdenum Co Ltd. Lualaba provincial officials blamed illegal miners for the disaster and claimed 2,000 illegal artisanal miners a day sneak onto the mining concession. Illegal mining puts illegal miners and concession employees at risk. Occasionally the illegal miners fight with mine company employees and security personnel. Interestingly enough, the price of cobalt has dropped about 60 percent in the last year.
June 26, 2019: China has more reasons to regret its close economic and military ties with Pakistan. Today, in northern Pakistan (Rawalpindi a military town next to the national capital) there was a bombing at the hospital inside the army headquarters compound. This hospital is one of the most heavily guarded facilities in Pakistan. The military tried to keep news of the attack away from local and international media. Ten people were wounded and the target of the attack was believed to be Masood Azhar, an international terrorist long sought (dead or alive) by India. Azar was responsible for the 2011 Mumbai (India) terrorist attack and a more recent February suicide bombing in Kashmir that left 40 Indian police dead. India has plenty of evidence that Pakistan continues to protect Islamic terror groups that only attack other nations (mainly India and Afghanistan). While Pakistan was grateful that China used their UN veto to block justified counter-terrorism measures for so long eventually China got tired of it and recently agreed that Azhar was indeed a notorious terrorist. China was also trying to persuade Pakistan to back off on sponsoring Islamic terrorist groups that were willing to attack Pakistani enemies. Pakistan refused to go along with the Chinese requests so China sent the message in stronger terms by no longer blocking UN efforts to designate Azhar an international terrorist. This move won China some goodwill from Afghanistan, India and many other nations who have suffered from this Pakistani use of Islamic terrorists. Within days of the UN declaring Azhar a terrorist, Pakistan froze his bank accounts and banned him from leaving the country. Azhar was not arrested nor were any moves made against JeM (Jaish e Mohammad), the terror groups Azhar leads. Azhar suffers from kidney failure and needs regular dialysis to stay alive. He was apparently at the military hospital for his medical treatment. JeM has become the primary target of counter-terror operations in Indian Kashmir. About a third of Islamic terrorists killed in Kashmir in the last year have belonged to JeM. Although JeM has been around since 2000 it only became a major Islamic terrorist threat in the last few years.
June 24, 2019: In Venezuela, a Russian Il-62 airliner arrived with a hundred technicians who will replace the same number who arrived in March to help maintain Russian military and commercial equipment Venezuela had purchased. The Russian technicians were also training Venezuelans to do the work but many of these newly trained locals flee Venezuela at the first opportunity because the socialist government of Venezuela has wrecked the economy and its once flourishing oil industry. Russia and China are sending in technical teams and some equipment to revive the oil production and shipping facilities. Russia is seeking ownership of some natural gas deposits to pay for current help and past loans. China has loaned Venezuela more than ten times as much as Russia and is seeking ownership of a large fraction of Venezuelan oil reserves. To support that China has far more technical and paramilitary personnel in Venezuela but has been able to keep their presence quiet and out of the way. These deals with China and Russia are being opposed by most other South American nations and the United States. Cuba is also helping out with security and medical experts. So far this foreign support has kept the socialist government operational. Meanwhile, most Venezuelans have no electricity, running water, sanitation or food. The government is focusing on protecting the oil fields in the north, at the expense of everything else. Russia sees Venezuela as a great opportunity that has little real risk attached to it.
June 20, 2019: In Iraq, after years of negotiations and delays the local government announced it had worked out terms of a $53 billion deal for an American company to develop two new oil fields along with all the necessary infrastructure. This announcement turned out to be premature because there are still disagreements over how the American oil firm will be paid and how security will be handled. In both cases the problem is corruption, something the Iraqis like to play down but that foreign firms cannot ignore, especially when this much of their money is being invested. Chinese oil firms offered similar deals in Iraq, have also backed off because of the payment and security problems. The Chinese firms are considered fearless and they are, but the Chinese are not foolish and Iraq is always looking for well-funded, but foolish foreign investors. Oil exports are at record levels (nearly 3.5 million barrels per day), bringing in about $7 billion a month. But without the foreign investment, and technology, to develop new oil fields, the current production levels will decline.
June 19, 2019: Commercial satellite photos showed that China had stationed (temporarily) four J-10 jet fighters to their largest airbase in the South China Sea. These jets were not just in the Paracel Island base for a brief visit but for an extended visit. That is expensive to do because everything must be imported to keep these island bases, and the thousands of Chinese operating them, going. The J-10s were on Woody Island, which in 2012 was declared the capital of the new Chinese South China Sea “municipality.” The Chinese had also moved more warships into the South China Sea and this was all seen as a response to military exercises in the area by American forces and those of the many local allies the U.S. has in the region. For the first time, American and Japanese aircraft carriers operated together. All this was mainly to remind China that its claims on the South China Sea were illegal and opposed by most of the world.
June 17, 2019: An international tribunal released the results of its investigation into Chinese organ transplant activity. This is not a new problem. At the end of 2014, China announced that it would stop taking transplant quality organs from dead (usually executed) prisoners as of 2015. Many Chinese and foreigners believed that this profitable organ trade would simply go underground and become another source of corruption. The government changed its policy here because of decades of bad publicity from other nations. That is exactly what happened because the tribunal found that while there was ample evidence that Chinese hospitals and clinics carry out over 60,000 organ transplants a year, there is no obvious or legal source of the needed organs inside China or in any neighboring countries. Most of the transplants are for lucrative foreign clients who are told the service will be expensive but that the appropriate organ (matching blood type and other factors) can be procured within two weeks. For over a decade before the 2015 government decision, there were several other investigations into the growing organ transplant industry in China which indicated that a major player was the Chinese military. The financial incentive was considerable because there was, and still is, a worldwide shortage of organs for transplant. Since China still executes hundreds of criminals each year and has thousands of political prisoners, who often go into prison camps and just disappear, there always seems to be available organs for transplant in China. For years desperate, and well-heeled, foreigners come to China, got their life-saving transplant, and noticed that there are a lot of military personnel working in the hospitals. The military is a major player in Chinese medical care, with a large network of hospitals for its millions of troops and their dependents. The military can also force prosecutors and police, in most cases, to go away. After 2014 the military presence was more discreet (private security guards instead of troops in full uniform). The Chinese government still insists there is no government involvement in this transplant industry, yet the operations continue and may be closer to 100,000 transplants in some years.
June 12, 2019: In Africa, the head of intelligence for AFRICOM (U.S. Africa Command, which controls all U.S. military forces in Africa) warned other nations operating near Djibouti (north of Somalia) that the new Chinese naval base there has demonstrated some strange, and possibly deadly, behavior. The main problem is that the Chinese appear to be quite paranoid about any commercial or military ships and aircraft passing near their Djibouti (which is ten kilometers from an American base) and often react against aircraft with blinding lasers. This occurs even when the aircraft are over international waters. When questioned about such behavior the Chinese respond that they are simply preventing foreign nations from spying on their base. At the same time, Chinese agents have been caught trying to get into the American base. More ominous is that fact that China has been a generous lender to the Djibouti government and holds about 90 percent of Djibouti’s foreign debt. This appears to be another setup for DTD (Debt Trap Diplomacy). Such loans have
been a favorite Chinese tactic for over a thousand years by virtue of China having been, until a few centuries ago, the wealthiest empire on the planet. Nations currently vulnerable (they have large Chinese debts) to DTD are Sri Lanka, Kyrgyzstan, Laos, the Maldives, Mongolia, Montenegro, Pakistan, Venezuela and Tajikistan. Most nations are aware of the DTD trap but where there is a lot of corruption China can create a DTD situation anyway. Some of these DTD efforts go bad and cost China a lot of money, but on average DTD is a net gain for China as it acquires military, economic and diplomatic advantages without having to fight.
The Chinese Navy established its first base outside of China in 2016 in Djibouti, which lies astride the narrow waterway that is the entrance to the Red Sea and at the north end is the Suez Canal. Chinese seaborne trade is a heavy user of the Suez Canal. The Chinese base was declared operational in August 2017 and at least a dozen ZBL armored vehicles were seen there for use by the security force. China does not want access to the canal interrupted by pirates or anything else. One thing that helped get the government to agree to the Djibouti naval base was the air base that Japan opened there in 2011. This was the first overseas Japanese military base since World War II. This was part of the Japanese contribution to the international anti-piracy effort off Somalia. About 200 Japanese troops were stationed at the base. China was not a good neighbor from the beginning. By 2018 the United States was warning pilots to avoid airspace near the new Chinese naval base in Djibouti. The U.S. and France have long had a special operations base in Djibouti and American transport pilots have complained about someone in the area using high powered lasers in an apparent attempt to blind pilots. The lasers were calculated to be located near the new Chinese base. China denied allegations that it was using such laser devices and pointed out that it had signed an international agreement not to use such devices. China also denies recent accusations that their new island bases in the South China Sea are jamming satellite phones used by Filipino Coast Guard vessels that come by. China also denies complaints about Australian helicopter pilots, operating from Australian warships in the South China Sea, being hit with blinding laser beans sent from Chinese ships and island bases. The Chinese laser blinding efforts have been brought up before but satellite phone jamming is new. Such jamming would be possible because in 2019 China has installed a lot of additional EW (Electronic Warfare) equipment on its South China Sea artificial islands.
June 11, 2019: Someone in the U.S. government appears to have leaked confirmation that Kim Jong Nam the older half-brother of Kim Jong Un had spoken to CIA personnel. It was no secret that he regularly spoke to Chinese intelligence, if only because while in China he was under the protection of the Chinese government. Kim Jong Nam frequently traveled to other countries in the region, like Malaysia and Singapore. There he had opportunities to speak freely with foreigners. Because of that m
any North Koreans were not surprised that in early 2017 the older brother was murdered in Malaysia. The murder weapon was droplets of VX nerve gas smeared on his face by an attractive Vietnamese woman in a scheme that was traced back to North Korean agents. North Koreans were amazed at the energetic efforts by the younger brother to suppress the details of this incident and get the body back to North Korea where it could be destroyed. Most North Koreans saw Kim Jong Nam as the tragic victim of a paranoid and vicious younger brother, who happens to be the hereditary ruler of North Korea. Kim Jong Un was apparently unsure how this would all work out. Kim Jong Nam and his family have been living in China since 2002 because his father lost faith in his ability to become the third Kim to rule North Korea. This break became official in 2003. Kim Jong Nam was seen as too independent-minded and undisciplined for the job. The Chinese quietly granted Kim Jong Nam sanctuary (and citizenship) and blocked any North Korean attempts to get him back or kill him while Kim Jong Nam was in China. But the Chinese did not block Kim Jong Nam from traveling outside China, at his own risk.
June 6, 2019: In the south (Reed Bank, 230 kilometers off the coast of the Philippine's Palawan Island), a Chinese trawler, a member of the Naval Militia, collided with a Filipino fishing boat and moved on while the Filipino boat sank. The 22 Filipino fishermen were rescued by a Vietnamese fishing boat. China tried to deny this ever happened but there was too much evidence (and witnesses) and after about two weeks China offered to participate in a joint inquiry of the incident and why it happened. This deliberate Chinese attack (according to the Philippines) took place among the Spratly Islands in an area that is well within the internationally recognized Filipino EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) that extends 380 kilometers from the coast of Palawan Island (one of the large Filipino islands that China does not yet claim). Over the last few years, China has blocked Filipino efforts to explore for oil and natural gas deposits believed to be in the area and increasingly used their paramilitary naval militia (of trawlers and over civilian ships hired by the navy) to intimidate and threaten to collide with non-Chinese ships that enter the area. The Philippines agreed to the inquiry which will publicize the Chinese tactics and growing use of intimidation and actual violence to get their way.