On October 17, flags were flown at half-staff at Tiananmen Square and Zhongnanhai in mourning for former King of Cambodia Norodom Sihanouk, who passed away in Beijing on the 15th. Ruling from his country’s independence from French Indochina in 1953 until he was deposed in 1970, Sihanouk supported the Khmer Rouge until its leaders forced him out of office. He lived in exile in North Korea and China to the early 1990s, returning to Beijing frequently from 1993 on for medical treatment. Faced with declining health, Sihanouk abdicated to his son in 2004 and spent much of the rest of his life in China.
According to the newspaper Southern Daily (@南方日报), China also lowered the flag for Stalin, Ho Chi Minh, Kim Il-Sung and several other foreign leaders who were either communist or connected to the Soviet Union.
Netizens reacted to this national period of mourning with a mixture of anger and confusion. Many had never heard of this “old friend of the Chinese people” before. Others asked why the same respects were not paid to the Chinese people who have been the victims of natural and man-made disasters in recent months.
Quoting a tongue-and-cheek song by folk singer Zhang Weiwei, online cartoonist @MurongAoao (@慕容嗷嗷) derided Beijing’s paying of respects:
MurongAoao: My love for you runs deep, yet you, in return, love those stupid c*nts. Oh! And you’re flying the flag at half-staff for those stupid c*nts too…
ju11hua: After the [Wenzhou] train crash, the flag did not fly at half mast, after the Beijing floods, the flag did not fly at half mast, nor after the Shaanxi traffic accident, nor the great Tianjin fire,* nor the Yiliang [Yunnan] earthquake… A foreign layabout dies, and we fly the flag at half mast. This friendship leaves me speechless.
* CDT added the translation of the phrase 天津大火没降半旗 (“nor the great Tianjin fire”), which is absent from the Danwei translation.
CDT Chinese collected these comments on Sihanouk’s passing and the state of affairs in China:
PlaywrightFanXin: The flag flies at half-staff in the capital, yet the citizens of the country don’t know why. This fact alone is the biggest joke in the world. You tell me: is there anything more ridiculous? Why is your whole nation in mourning? I don’t know!
Blacklisted: The national flag is like a totem and the flag-raising ceremony is like totem worship. Stay far away from witchcraft and take good care of yourself! You can laugh at it from afar, but don’t get mixed up with it! Raising, lowering, lowering, raising–it’s nothing but interest groups amusing themselves.
LawyerQianJulei: Is this a diplomatic joke? Or is it an internal affairs joke?
XingfaHanFriend: I honestly have no idea what good this Cambodian King-Father we support has ever done for China or for the world!
GuotaijunAnchenbin: I don’t have the energy to comment on this.
ILikeLaifen: What people? The Celestial Empire doesn’t have a people. We only have the trouble-making masses. How stupid would it be to lower the flag for them?
MournfulFallWater: This was a fundamental policy of the Qing Dynasty: “I’d rather deal with my allies than the slaves of my own house.”
Aflie: I’d just like to meekly ask: Who?
Fahaobuyi: It’s like they’re preemptively lowering the flag for themselves…
Zhoukaiming2031: So, as I was saying, you can see who this country really belongs to…
周凯明2031：所以说啊 看出来了吧 这是谁的国
lOvELion: Sigh… Just don’t raise it at all.
Read more comments at CDT Chinese.
Translation of all comments excluding @ju11hua’s by Little Bluegill.
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