Voices of Netizens: Anti-Japanese Sentiment Online Leads to Woman’s Arrest, Canceled Festivals
After a photo of memorial plaques for Japanese war criminals in Nanjing’s Xuanzang Temple went viral, China’s State Administration for Religious Affairs ordered religious groups across the country to carry out self-reports. inspections and to follow a patriotic education. The photograph sparked a wave of anti-Japanese sentiment online as well as reflection on the process of healing from atrocities like the Nanjing Massacre. An official investigation conducted by Nanjing municipal authorities found that the tablets were placed there by former nurse Wu Aping in 2017 in an effort to get rid of recurring nightmares related to the massacre. Authorities say Wu had the ‘false impression’ that she could ‘solve grievances’ and ‘get rid of suffering’ in accordance with her Buddhist faith by erecting memorial plaques for the five Japanese war criminals and American missionary Minnie Vautrin, who saved countless Chinese lives during the war. massacre before committing suicide on his return to the United States.
The tablets were discovered in February this year and had already been taken down by the time the photo went viral earlier this month. Wu has been charged with “causing quarrels and causing trouble” and faces a maximum of 10 years in prison. The temple was temporarily forced to stop operations, its abbot was removed from office, and city officials overseeing religious affairs were also punished. At Sixth Tone, Ye Zhanhang reports that effort to ensure temples’ adherence to “core socialist values” went national:
“Regional authorities should urge religious organizations to carry out a full self-inspection and immediately correct irregularities if found,” the National Administration for Religious Affairs said. said Tuesday, ordering the entire industry to conduct patriotic education and “practice basic socialist values” to root out questionable incidents in the future.
“I am very ashamed of myself and apologize to everyone for this unforgivable mistake and the terrible trauma it has caused,” the abbot said. Told local media.
Together with the supervision of the National Religious Affairs Administration, the Buddhist Association of China Monday order all Buddhist temples across the country to conduct a self-assessment, saying it has “zero tolerance for any behavior that jeopardizes national interests and hurts national feelings.” [Source]
A hashtag about the city’s investigation received more than 600 million views on Weibo and attracted more than 100,000 comments. Former Global Times editor Hu Xijin said Wu had “done too much harm” to be forgiven and called for her to be punished according to law. A Weibo account affiliated with the People’s Liberation Army warned that: “The incident has once again sounded the alarm bell for the nation: the struggle against militarism and historical nihilism is still long and complicated, and we must be vigilant and resolutely defend the spiritual high plateau of the nation Chinese.” Yet a number of other commentators have taken more nuanced views. Were Wu Aping’s actions really that egregious, they asked? A WeChat essayist maintained that Wu’s actions were entirely in accordance with Buddhist practice and asked, “Doesn’t loving one’s country require loving real people?” How this madness [nationalist fervor] differ from superstition [belief in Buddhism]?” Another lamented that the memory of the Nanjing Massacre is no longer linked to calls for peace. They wrote that during the 65th anniversary commemorative activities in 2002, the word “peace” was visible everywhere: “we were not only massaging historical wounds, but also calling for eternal peace.” By 2012, they write, that atmosphere was gone and is still missing today.
The nationwide outcry and response to a seemingly minor incident is in line with rising anti-Japanese sentiment online. Following the assassination of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, macabre messages celebrating his violent death proliferated on China’s heavily regulated internet. In December last year, a Shanghai professor has been fired for pointing out that the exact death toll from the Nanjing Massacre remains unclear, while acknowledging that the incident was a “crime against humanity”. A primary school teacher from Hunan who defended Song’s right to question was later ‘mentally ill’ by local police. At GlobalTimes, Chen Qingqing and Liu Caiyu report it a number of Chinese cities have canceled long-running Japanese-style summer festivals in response to fears over digital nationalist crowds:
In recent days, a number of exhibition halls and hotels have denied holding the Summer Matsuri, especially after the cancellation of the one scheduled in Nanjing, capital of east China’s Jiangsu province, while that a growing number of internet users were calling for a boycott. The A-3×ComicDawn18 activity, which was originally scheduled for July 17, was canceled due to the special location and special meaning the festival could convey, which sparked strong dissatisfaction among netizens.
[…] Following the cancellation in Nanjing, a number of exhibitors and hotels in cities such as Dali in Yunnan Province (southwest China) and Zaozhuang in Shandong Province (east China) announced one after another their intention to cancel the Summer Matsuri.
[…] Although the Summer Matsuri is a carnival-like event in Japanese culture, which typically sees people dress up, eat, and get together with friends and families, the possibilities for some religious people to use it as a platform for announcing religions or extending it beyond culture to other historical elements cannot be excluded, [Liu Jiangyong, vice dean of the Institute of Modern International Relations at Tsinghua University, told Global Times]
[…] “Also, the name Summer Matsuri might cause controversy. The activity could become sensational in the general environment,”[Zhang Yiwu, a professor at Peking University,] said. However, Chinese audiences generally accept Japanese culture as long as it does not involve any World War II elements. [Source]
online, many ridiculed cancellations as nationalism runs wild, drawing comparisons to Cultural Revolution and sarcastically wishing those responsible for cancellations a “lifetime of happiness”:
DC-非凡大陆：Some people ask, “Why give the summer festival such a Japanese name?” BECAUSE IT’S SUSPECTED TO BE AN IMMERSIVE JAPANESE EXPERIENCE, DUH. Like, imagine if Americans loved hanfu so much so that every year they had a big ceremony in DC’s Chinatown but some people started saying it must be a front for mainland spies because it was called ‘Chinatown’ so they set it on fire.
蕴藉0817：Understood, in the future, we will call them “temple fairs”.
糨糊最后一个大佬：That’s what you would call “the elevation of minor faults to the rank of principle.”
永恒时空的归来者：You’re even really able to associate that [with Japanese war crimes]? Impressive, glorious nationalists. I wish you a lifetime of happiness. People will remember you. [Chinese]