[EDITORIALS]China's rebuke to the NorthChinese authorities on Friday arrested Yang Bin, chairman of Euro-Asia Agricultural Holdings and newly appointed governor of North Korea's special administrative zone of Sinuiju. Rumors had been circulating in Beijing since the weekend that Mr. Yang was being investigated. We wonder why China, despite knowing that it would inevitably stir up a diplomatic conflict with North Korea, arrested Mr. Yang. After all, China has long advised the North to undertake reforms and to open up. Mr. Yang's arrest at the time of the Sinuiju project's launch is extremely shocking.
It is hard to believe that China arrested Mr. Yang only on charges of being delinquent in tax payments. It also seems that Mr. Yang will not be detained for long. He sold significant amounts of his shares in Hong Kong, so he should have no problem paying the back tax of $1.25 million. Moreover, he has a North Korean diplomatic passport, the kind given to officials of deputy prime minister level.
Considering the special nature of North Korea-China relations, the importance of Mr. Yang's appointment and the relative insignificance of the charges against him, China's move is extraordinary. We wonder if Mr. Yang might have been involved in other illegal activities in China. There are rumors that he is involved in large-scale smuggling and that his real estate developments were illegal. Such allegations coincide with our previous doubts about Mr. Yang's credibility and qualifications.
Even so, Beijing's arrest of Mr. Yang seems to express a hostility toward the North's recent moves. China was not happy with the dilution of its influence on peninsular affairs through Pyeongyang and Moscow becoming closer. It was also dissatisfied with the designation of Sinuiju as a special economic zone and the appointment of a Chinese-Dutch governor.
China had advised the North to designate the southern city of Gaeseong, not Sinuiju, as its special administrative zone. Pyeongyang, however, did not consult Beijing before making its decision. China saw the Sinuiju project as a threat to its own economy in the regions bordering the Yellow Sea. One thing is clear: China's containment policy toward North Korea is not a good sign for Sinuiju's future.