According to the Bangkok Post, Wang Ziacha, manager of the Top World factory, saw workers stop work and gather around a poster of the late monarch. Wang tried to tear the picture, could not, and then used scissors to cut it up
The workers were very upset by Wangs’ actions, according to the Post. Police handcuffed her and escorted her to a shrine honoring the king, where they forced her to kneel and light incense in his honor. Sihanouk had died of a heart attack on Oct. 14 at age 89.
By Oct. 23 a Cambodian court had sentenced her. Wang was fired, fined, sentenced to a year in jail and would then be banished from Cambodia.
What interested Chinese all the, however, was the reaction by the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Spokesman Hong Lei said at a press conference: “King Sihanouk was a great friend to the Chinese people, he was deeply loved by Cambodians. This behavior is extremely wrong and will be dealt with according to Cambodian law.”
Chinese netizens said they felt their government had not tried to protect a Chinese citizen abroad, as other countries often do.
A comment on Sina said, “In 1993, American student Michael P. Fay was sentenced to being caned in Singapore for spray-painting and other vandalism. President Clinton personally pleaded for him. Recently, a Chinese citizen was insulted for tearing up King Sihanouk’s photo, yet the spokesman from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs throws out such a cold remark.”
“She is not the only person who kneeled down, all of China kneeled down!” according to one comment on Weibo.
China treated Sihanouk with great honors when he fled to China in the 1970s. Part of the resentment netizens expressed over Wang’s treatment was about the idea that their government cared more for him than for ordinary Chinese people.
The Chinese Communist Party gave the exiled king expensive medical care and a generous allowance.
A famous Tianyu blogger called “those white collars in the old time” charged the Chinese Communist Party with spending two million RMB each year on Sihanouk in the 1970s when the average Chinese person’s salary was only 360 RMB per year.
Dai Bingguo, a member of the Chinese State Council, escorted Sihanouk’s coffin back to Cambodia two days after his death. Flags flew at half-staff on Tiananmen Square.
The Chinese magazine Caijing, which has a reformist bent, made an oblique criticism. “Of course we are in favor of reinforcing traditional friendship, and we support defending one’s territory, maintaining territorial integrity. But what we are more concerned about is each citizen’s life and dignity.”
Netizens were more direct in laying the blame: “After the death of Norodom Sihanouk, who collaborated with the Khmer Rouge to kill 300,000 Chinese in Cambodia, you predictably lowered the flags to half-mast, claiming his death was a great loss to the Chinese people,” netizen First Micro-Magazine commented to his 20,000 followers on Sina Weibo.