It was September 2012 when violent anti-Japanese protests (反日游行) erupted in different cities across Beijing over the status of the Senkaku/Diaoyu island group. The long-standing dispute reached a zenith after the Japanese government nationalized control of three of the largest islands, triggering people to take to the streets across the country to vent their anger.
The demonstrations became a much-discussed topic again this week on Chinese social media, as Chinese news outlet Pear Video brought the story of Wang Jianli (李建利), a man from Xi’an who was hit in the head by demonstrators in 2012 for owning a Japanese car. Now, four years later, the man is still hospitalized for head injury.
In an online interview, Wang’s wife made some remarkable statements; she did not speak of the protesters who hit her husband, but instead expressed her regret over buying a Japanese car and blamed Japan for her husband’s fate.
“Sushi restaurants had a statement hanging on the wall saying their sushi was NOT Japanese.”
In that late Summer of 2012, the nationalist and anti-Japanese sentiments were clear all over China. In Beijing, virtually all houses in the old hutong streets had a flag hanging by their door. Sushi restaurants had a statement hanging on the wall saying their sushi was NOT Japanese, and local clothing markets were selling t-shirts with “The Diaoyu Islands Are Chinese” prints on them.
It was during this time that protests against Japan’s claim on the islands in the East China Sea turned so violent that angry crowds ravaged Japanese businesses, smashed Japanese-branded cars, threw rocks at the Japanese embassy, and burned Japanese flags. There was also a mass boycott of Japanese goods.
“Japan is all to blame for this, for stealing our Diaoyu islands.”
In the video report by Pear Media, Wang Jianlin returns to the place where he was attacked on September 15, 2012. Wang, who was then 51 years old, was driving a Japanese car and found himself in the middle of a group of an anti-Japanese protest, where one demonstrator violently beat him on the head with a stick.
He was admitted to the hospital with serious head injuries. Four years later, he is still unable to function independently and needs everyday medical care. His medical bills are now over 800,000 RMB (±115,000 US$).
“Who would have thought that buying a Japanese car would wreck our lives?”, his wife tells Pear Media: “Perhaps Japan is all to blame for this, for stealing our Diaoyu islands. If they wouldn’t have done that, there would have been no protests.”
Since the attack, Wang is unable to eat, drink or walk by himself. He needs daily treatments and care to get through his everyday life.
The couple says that their future is unsure since Wang’s injuries: “Tonight I will go to sleep, but I don’t know if I will wake up tomorrow”, Wang says.
“It is not because of a Japanese car that your life was ruined, it is because of an ignorant Chinese person.”
Wang’s story triggered thousands of comments on Sina Weibo on Saturday. Although the majority of netizens are sympathetic towards Wang and his wife, they also criticized the woman for blaming everything on Japan.
“It is not because of a Japanese car that your life was ruined, it is because of an ignorant Chinese person,” one commenter writes.
“Don’t blame Japanese goods for this,” another netizen said: “Blame the persons who did this. They were no protesters, they were idiots hating on people with money.”
“Many military and police vehicles are also made-in-Japan. Why didn’t the protesters smash those cars?”, one Weibo user wonders.
Many netizens express their anger over the 2012 demonstrations: “You bastards went and smashed the Japanese embassy, and collided with your own compatriots. You’re deranged. You call that patriotism? Who will take up the bill for the remaining days of this man? So what if this Toyota car wasn’t made in China? What is the motive behind this parade and smashing up men like this?”
“These are patriotic traitors!”, another person said about the violent demonstrators.
As for Wang and his wife, their whole life has changed since the September anti-Japanese demonstrations. “I don’t know what happiness is anymore,” Wang’s wife says: “Life is just no fun anymore.”
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