SubscribeLog in
Connect with us

China History

Did This TikToker Find Unseen Nanjing Massacre Photos? Regardless, Chinese Netizens Want the World to Know about 1937

Although it is yet unclear if the photos are authentic, Chinese netizens just want the world to know more about the Nanjing Massacre.

Wendy Huang

Published

on

Did an American pawn shop owner find unseen photos of the Nanjing Massacre? As his Tiktok video is going viral online, Chinese netizens are shocked to find how little Western social media users know about what happened during the Japanese invasion of Nanjing in 1937. They hope the video helps strengthen international awareness on the ‘Rape of Nanjing’.

Over the past week, an American TikTok video has attracted the attention of Chinese netizens. On September 1st, Minnesota pawn shop owner Evan Kail, who runs the Pawn Master Kail (@pawn.man) Tiktok account, turned to his followers and asked for help in a video after coming across an old photo book that he believed contained extremely rare and unseen photos of the Nanjing Massacre.

Kail also posted some of the photos from the book on his Twitter account (viewer discretion advised).

The so-called Nanjing or Nanking Massacre (南京大屠杀, also known as the ‘Rape of Nanjing’) happened during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) – which became part of WWII in 1941 after Pearl Harbor – and refers to the mass murder of Chinese civilians by Japanese invaders during a six-week period from December 13, 1937, to January 1938.

According to China’s official data, at least 300,000 residents, including children and elderly, lost their lives during the massacre that became the most notorious Japanese atrocity of the Second Sino-Japanese War. In October 2015, UNESCO added Nanjing Massacre historical documents to its Memory of the World Register.

In his September 1st video, the pawn shop owner Evan Kails says: “This is the most disturbing thing I’ve ever seen in my career and I desperately need your help (..) Had a customer reach out and they told me they had this old book of photos from WWII. It’s been in their family for a while and they wanted me to try and sell it.”

Kail then explains the book is by a soldier who was stationed in South East Asia around 1937-1938 and who allegedly photographed life in China and other countries. The album includes a series of war-related images that Kail claims are too shocking to share with his followers (“worse than anything I have seen on the Internet”) and which he believes were taken during the Japanese invasion of Nanjing in 1937.

The pawn shop owner said he believes that these photos “need to be seen, documented, and preserved” and asked his followers to share his video as widely as possible, hoping that the appropriate channels, such as museums, could contact him.

Shortly after, Kail’s video was also shared on Chinese social media. The U.S.-based Weibo user RuruRin, who has more than one million followers, posted the video on Thursday afternoon with Chinese subtitles, after which it quickly became a top trending topic on Weibo.

Many Chinese social media users mentioned and tagged the official Weibo account of The Memorial Hall of the Victims in Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders, which is a Nanjing-based museum to memorialize those who were killed in the Nanjing Massacre. About three hours later, the official Weibo account of the museum responded and stated that they had seen the post, and had attempted to contact Kail to verify the information.

The Nanjing Massacre Memorial Museum responds on Weibo, thanking everyone for alerting them and saying they are attempting to get in touch with Kail.

The video shared by RuruRin so far has received nearly 300,000 likes and thousand of comments on Weibo. The hashtag “Foreign netizen May Have Discovered Color Photos of the Nanjing Massacre” (#国外网友或发现南京大屠杀彩照#) appeared on the trending list of Weibo and climbed to the second position by late night of September 1. By Sunday, it had received over 960 million clicks.

While there is still doubt regarding the authenticity of the photos, many Chinese Weibo users suggest that if the photos are authentic, the Chinese government should purchase them regardless of the cost because it will provide additional evidence to counter Japan’s denial of this history.

Some are concerned that this book will be sold to a Japanese buyer, while others are worried about Kail’s personal safety after his discovery, given that Iris Chang, author of renowned The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II, received frequent harassment and threats from some Japanese after her book was published in 1997. Chang committed suicide in 2004 at the age of 36.

One of the issues that has become a big part of Chinese online discussions regarding the Pawn Master video is how many Americans and other foreigners are not aware of the history of what happened in Nanjing. Weibo user RuruRin dedicated a post to this issue, sharing many Tiktok comments from people writing they had never even heard about the Nanjing Massacre.

“Regardless of how this story turns out,” Rururin wrote: “It is gratifying to know because of this photo album video, millions of people have now become aware of the existence of the Nanjing Massacre, and many are willing to learn more about it because of this video. Most American schools do not teach this history, so while basically everyone in the U.S. knows about the Holocaust, few people know about the Nanjing Massacre.”

China has done a lot to create more awareness about what happened in Nanjing. Besides the countless books, movies, documentaries, and TV series dedicated to the topic, China also introduced the “National Memorial Day for the Victims of the Nanjing Massacre” in 2014. It is an annual memorial day on December 13, which is the day the imperial Japanese army invaded Nanjing.

An important site where visitors are educated about this painful history is the Memorial Hall of the Nanjing Massacre which was opened on August 15, 1985. This official memorial museum is built near the site of the “pit of ten thousand corpses” where thousands of bodies were buried during the killings. The Memorial Hall covers a total area of 103,000 square meters is home to important historical records, victim testimonies, artifacts, and photographs.

 
“When it’s about the Nanjing Massacre, we are never short of evidence – we are short of international attention for it.”
 

Despite all the stories and evidence on record, there are many people across the world who have no knowledge of this Nanjing history. One Weibo user wrote: “When it’s about the [Nanjing Massacre] history, we are never short of evidence – we are short of international attention for it.”

Renowned Chinese director and actor Jiang Wen (姜文) previously commented on this lack of international attention for the Nanjing Massacre. In 2018, he was asked why he chose 1937 as the background setting for his movie Hidden Man. Jiang replied that he wanted to use the film to “let the world know what the Japanese did” and said:

“China in 1937 faced a broken country and millions of ruined families. The entire Chinese population stood up to resist the invaders. The theme of resisting invaders should be expressed all over the world. On this aspect, China doesn’t do it as well as the West. The reason why Chinese people now know that the Nazis were bad, and the Jews were persecuted, is because Western artists and investors work hard every year to make sure that a young person growing up in China, even if they’re from a small town, will know what kind of things the Nazis did. However, the majority of the world is unaware of what the Japanese did.”

Regarding Evan Kail’s discovery and Tiktok video, many Chinese netizens seem to care less about the photos being authentic but more about how the photos and the video increase international historical awareness about the Nanjing Massacre.

In a follow-up video, Kail told that his phone had been ringing non-stop since the video and that his story was featured in, among others, Rolling Stone and Newsweek. Kail also shared that the photo book owner agreed that only a museum would be getting the photo book.

Kail claimed that he had been in touch with Chinese officials regarding the book, but that he felt he was facing a “dilemma” because he did not want the photo album to be used for a certain “political agenda” where only some of the photos would be selected with others disregarded. “There are so many histories in this book,” Kail said: “It has to be properly treasured.”

Meanwhile, on Twitter, there are multiple people involved in helping in the process of authenticating this photo album. The popular ‘Fake History Hunter’ account claims the album is genuine as a souvenir album countless sailors bought when their tour of duty was about to begin, but that some of the photos in the album are not unique and can also be found online.

On Weibo as well, there are some convincing expert bloggers who claim they have come across similar photo albums and that the person who it belonged to had not necessarily been to Nanjing (#国内博主称有相似南京大屠杀彩照相册#).

Chinese blogger shares that he has a similar photo album.

Where will this old photo book eventually end up? That is still unclear. Regardless, Kail is pleased that the video educated more people about this war history, while Weibo netizens are glad that more people outside of China have started to look up information regarding the ‘Nanjing Massacre’ to learn more about what happened there.

Google trends shows, starting from Sep 1, the worldwide search volume of the term “the Nanjing Massacre” went up suddenly.

“Actually I don’t think it really matters whether the color photos are genuine or not, there’s is enough evidence of the Nanjing Massacre,” one Weibo user (@不知江月V) writes: “But a positive effect of this incident is how it went viral and led foreign netizens to take the initiative to learn and understand the history of the Nanjing Massacre. The classroom WWII history in foreign countries is basically limited to the German military and there is not much explanation of the atrocities committed by the Japanese in Asia. So this has achieved the goal of foreign netizens knowing and understanding more about the blood debt owed by the Japanese to the Chinese people.”

By Wendy Huang, with contributions by Manya Koetse

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. Please note that your comment below will need to be manually approved if you’re a first-time poster here.

©2022 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com

Wendy Huang is a China-based Beijing Language and Culture University graduate who currently works for a Public Relations & Media software company. She believes that, despite the many obstacles, Chinese social media sites such as Weibo can help Chinese internet users to become more informed and open-minded regarding various social issues in present-day China.

Continue Reading
1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Avatar

    charles baer

    September 6, 2022 at 12:42 am

    you could say that this was the begining of W W I I .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Backgrounder

“Oppenheimer” in China: Highlighting the Story of Qian Xuesen

Qian Xuesen is a renowned Chinese scientist whose life shares remarkable parallels with Oppenheimer’s.

Zilan Qian

Published

on

They shared the same campus, lived in the same era, and both played pivotal roles in shaping modern history while navigating the intricate interplay between science and politics. With the release of the “Oppenheimer” movie in China, the renowned Chinese scientist Qian Xuesen is being compared to the American J. Robert Oppenheimer.

In late August, the highly anticipated U.S. movie Oppenheimer finally premiered in China, shedding light on the life of the famous American theoretical physicist J. Robert Oppenheimer (1904-1967).

Besides igniting discussions about the life of this prominent scientist, the film has also reignited domestic media and public interest in Chinese scientists connected to Oppenheimer and nuclear physics.

There is one Chinese scientist whose life shares remarkable parallels with Oppenheimer’s. This is aerospace engineer and cyberneticist Qian Xuesen (钱学森, 1911-2009). Like Oppenheimer, he pursued his postgraduate studies overseas, taught at Caltech, and played a pivotal role during World War II for the US.

Qian Xuesen is so widely recognized in China that whenever I introduce myself there, I often clarify my last name by saying, “it’s the same Qian as Qian Xuesen’s,” to ensure that people get my name.

Some Chinese blogs recently compared the academic paths and scholarly contributions of the two scientists, while others highlighted the similarities in their political challenges, including the revocation of their security clearances.

The era of McCarthyism in the United States cast a shadow over Qian’s career, and, similar to Oppenheimer, he was branded as a “communist suspect.” Eventually, these political pressures forced him to return to China.

Although Qian’s return to China made his later life different from Oppenheimer’s, both scientists lived their lives navigating the complex dynamics between science and politics. Here, we provide a brief overview of the life and accomplishments of Qian Xuesen.

 

Departing: Going to America

 

Qian Xuesen (钱学森, also written as Hsue-Shen Tsien), often referred to as the “father of China’s missile and space program,” was born in Shanghai in 1911,1 a pivotal year marked by a historic revolution that brought an end to the imperial dynasty and gave rise to the Republic of China.

Much like Oppenheimer, who pursued further studies at Cambridge after completing his undergraduate education, Qian embarked on a journey to the United States following his bachelor’s studies at National Chiao Tung University (now Shanghai Jiao Tong University). He spent a year at Tsinghua University in preparation for his departure.

The year was 1935, during the eighth year of the Chinese Civil War and the fourth year of Japan’s invasion of China, setting the backdrop for his academic pursuits in a turbulent era.

Qian in his office at Caltech (image source).

One year after arriving in the U.S., Qian earned his master’s degree in aeronautical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). Three years later, in 1939, the 27-year-old Qian Xuesen completed his PhD at the California Institute of Technology (Caltech), the very institution where Oppenheimer had been welcomed in 1927. In 1943, Qian solidified his position in academia as an associate professor at Caltech. While at Caltech, Qian helped found NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory.

When World War II began, while Oppenheimer was overseeing the Manhattan Project’s efforts to assist the U.S. in developing the atomic bomb, Qian actively supported the U.S. government. He served on the U.S. government’s Scientific Advisory Board and attained the rank of lieutenant colonel.

The first meeting of the US Department of the Air Force Scientific Advisory Board in 1946. The predecessor, the Scientific Advisory Group, was founded in 1944 to evaluate the aeronautical programs and facilities of the Axis powers of World War II. Qian can be seen standing in the back, the second on the left (image source).

After the war, Qian went to teach at MIT and returned to Caltech as a full-time professor in 1949. During that same year, Mao Zedong proclaimed the establishment of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). Just one year later, the newly-formed nation became involved in the Korean War, and China fought a bloody battle against the United States.

 

Red Scare: Being Labeled as a Communist

 

Robert Oppenheimer and Qian Xuesen both had an interest in Communism even prior to World War II, attending communist gatherings and showing sympathy towards the Communist cause.

Qian and Oppenheimer may have briefly met each other through their shared involvement in communist activities. During his time at Caltech, Qian secretly attended meetings with Frank Oppenheimer, the brother of J. Robert Oppenheimer (Monk 2013).

However, it was only after the war that their political leanings became a focal point for the FBI.

Just as the FBI accused Oppenheimer of being an agent of the Soviet Union, they quickly labeled Qian as a subversive communist, largely due to his Chinese heritage. While the government did not succeed in proving that Qian had communist ties with China during that period, they did ultimately succeed in portraying Qian as a communist affiliated with China a decade later.

During the transition from the 1940s to the 1950s, the Cold War was underway, and the anti-communist witch-hunts associated with the McCarthy era started to intensify (BBC 2020).

In 1950, the Korean War erupted, with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) joining North Korea in the conflict against South Korea, which received support from the United States. It was during this tumultuous period that the FBI officially accused Qian of communist sympathies in 1950, leading to the revocation of his security clearance despite objections from Qian’s colleagues. Four years later, in 1954, Robert Oppenheimer went through a similar process.

The 1950’s security hearing of Qian (second left). (Image source).

After losing his security clearance, Qian began to pack up, saying he wanted to visit his aging parents back home. Federal agents seized his luggage, which they claimed contained classified materials, and arrested him on suspicion of subversive activity. Although Qian denied any Communist leanings and rejected the accusation, he was detained by the government in California and spent the next five years under house arrest.

Five years later, in 1955, two years after the end of the Korean War, Qian was sent home to China as part of an apparent exchange for 11 American airmen who had been captured during the war. He told waiting reporters he “would never step foot in America again,” and he kept his promise (BBC 2020).

A letter from the US Immigration and Naturalization Service to Qian Xuesen, dated August 4, 1955, in which he was notified he was allowed to leave the US. The original copy is owned by Qian Xuesen Library of Shanghai Jiao Tong University, where the photo was taken. (Caption and image via wiki).

Dan Kimball, who was the Secretary of the US Navy at the time, expressed his regret about Qian’s departure, reportedly stating, “I’d rather shoot him dead than let him leave America. Wherever he goes, he equals five divisions.” He also stated: “It was the stupidest thing this country ever did. He was no more a communist than I was, and we forced him to go” (Perrett & Bradley, 2008).

Kimball may have foreseen the unfolding events accurately. After his return to China, Qian did indeed assume a pivotal role in enhancing China’s military capabilities, possibly surpassing the potency of five divisions. The missile programme that Qian helped develop in China resulted in weapons which were then fired back on America, including during the 1991 Gulf War (BBC 2020).

 

Returning: Becoming a National Hero

 

The China that Qian Xuesen had left behind was an entirely different China than the one he returned to. China, although having relatively few experts in the field, was embracing new possibilities and technologies related to rocketry and space exploration.

Within less than a month of his arrival, Qian was welcomed by the then Vice Prime Minister Chen Yi, and just four months later, he had the honor of meeting Chairman Mao himself.

Qian and Mao (image source).

In China, Qian began a remarkably successful career in rocket science, with great support from the state. He not only assumed leadership but also earned the distinguished title of the “father” of the Chinese missile program, instrumental in equipping China with Dongfeng ballistic missiles, Silkworm anti-ship missiles, and Long March space rockets.

Additionally, his efforts laid the foundation for China’s contemporary surveillance system.

By now, Qian has become somewhat of a folk hero. His tale of returning to China despite being thwarted by the U.S. government has become like a legendary narrative in China: driven by unwavering patriotism, he willingly abandoned his overseas success, surmounted formidable challenges, and dedicated himself to his motherland.

Throughout his lifetime, Qian received numerous state medals in recognition of his work, establishing him as a nationally celebrated intellectual. From 1989 to 2001, the state-launched public movement “Learn from Qian Xuesen” was promoted throughout the country, and by 2001, when Qian turned 90, the national praise for him was on a similar level as that for Deng Xiaoping in the decade prior (Wang 2011).

Qian Xuesen remains a celebrated figure. On September 3rd of this year, a new “Qian Xuesen School” was established in Wenzhou, Zhejiang Province, becoming the sixth high school bearing the scientist’s name since the founding of the first one only a year ago.

In 2017, the play “Qian Xuesen” was performed at Qian’s alma mater, Shanghai Jiaotong University. (Image source.)

Qian Xuesen’s legacy extends well beyond educational institutions. His name frequently appears in the media, including online articles, books, and other publications. There is the Qian Xuesen Library and a museum in Shanghai, containing over 70,000 artefacts related to him. Qian’s life story has also been the inspiration for a theater production and a 2012 movie titled Hsue-Shen Tsien (钱学森).2

 

Unanswered Questions

 

As is often the case when people are turned into heroes, some part of the stories are left behind while others are highlighted. This holds true for both Robert Oppenheimer and Qian Xuesen.

The Communist Party of China hailed Qian as a folk hero, aligning with their vision of a strong, patriotic nation. Many Chinese narratives avoid the debate over whether Qian’s return was linked to problems and accusations in the U.S., rather than genuine loyalty to his homeland.

In contrast, some international media have depicted Qian as a “political opportunist” who returned to China due to disillusionment with the U.S., also highlighting his criticism of “revisionist” colleagues during the Cultural Revolution and his denunciation of the 1989 student demonstrations.

Unlike the image of a resolute loyalist favored by the Chinese public, Qian’s political ideology was, in fact, not consistently aligned, and there were instances where he may have prioritized opportunity over loyalty at different stages of his life.

Qian also did not necessarily aspire to be a “flawless hero.” Upon returning to China, he declined all offers to have his biography written for him and refrained from sharing personal information with the media. Consequently, very little is known about his personal life, leaving many questions about the motivations driving him, and his true political inclinations.

The marriage photo of Qian and Jiang. (Image source).

We do know that Qian’s wife, Jiang Ying (蒋英), had a remarkable background. She was of Chinese-Japanese mixed race and was the daughter of a prominent military strategist associated with Chiang Kai-shek. Jiang Ying was also an accomplished opera singer and later became a professor of music and opera at the Central Conservatory of Music in Beijing.

Just as with Qian, there remain numerous unanswered questions surrounding Oppenheimer, including the extent of his communist sympathies and whether these sympathies indirectly assisted the Soviet Union during the Cold War.

Perhaps both scientists never imagined they would face these questions when they first decided to study physics. After all, they were scientists, not the heroes that some narratives portray them to be.

Also read:
■ Farewell to a Self-Taught Master: Remembering China’s Colorful, Bold, and Iconic Artist Huang Yongyu
■ “His Name Was Mao Anying”: Renewed Remembrance of Mao Zedong’s Son on Chinese Social Media

By Zilan Qian

1 Some sources claim that Qian was born in Hangzhou, while others say he was born in Shanghai with ancestral roots in Hangzhou.
2The Chinese character 钱 is typically romanized as “Qian” in Pinyin. However, “Tsien” is a romanization in Wu Chinese, which corresponds to the dialect spoken in the region where Qian Xuesen and his family have ancestral roots.

This article has been edited for clarity by Manya Koetse

References (other sources hyperlinked in text)

BBC. 2020. “Qian Xuesen: The man the US deported – who then helped China into space.” BBC.com, 27 October https://www.bbc.com/news/stories-54695598 [9.16.23].

Monk, Ray. 2013. Robert Oppenheimer: A Life inside the Center, First American Edition. New York: Doubleday.

Perrett, Bradley, and James R. Asker. 2008. “Person of the Year: Qian Xuesen.” Aviation Week and Space Technology 168 (1): 57-61.

Wang, Ning. 2011. “The Making of an Intellectual Hero: Chinese Narratives of Qian Xuesen.” The China Quarterly, 206, 352-371. doi:10.1017/S0305741011000300

 

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2023 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Continue Reading

China Fashion & Beauty

Fashion that Hurts? Online Debates on China’s Draft Law Regarding ‘Harmful’ Clothes

The proposed ban on clothing deemed harmful is stirring debate, with some arguing for the significance of protecting national pride and others emphasizing the value of personal expression.

Manya Koetse

Published

on

China’s recent proposal to ban clothing that “hurts national feelings” has triggered social media debates about freedom of dress and cultural sensitivities. The controversial amendment has raised questions about who decides what’s offensive for which reason.

A draft amendment to China’s Public Security Administration Punishments Law (治安管理处罚法) has caused some controversy this week for proposing a ban on clothes that “hurt national feelings.”

The discussions are about Article 34, clausules 3 and 4, which point out that wearing clothing or symbols that are deemed “harmful” to “the spirit and feelings of the Chinese nation” could become illegal. Offenders may face up to 15 days of detention and a fine of 5,000 yuan ($680).

The revised Article is part of a section about acts disrupting public order and their punishment, mentioning the protection of China’s heroes and martyrs.

Especially over the past three to four years, Chinese authorities have placed more importance on protecting the image of China’s “heroes and martyrs.” In 2018, the Heroes and Martyrs Protection Law was adopted to strengthen the protection of those who have made significant contributions to the nation and sacrificed their lives in the process.

Those insulting the PLA can face serious consequences. In 2021, former Economic Observer journalist Qiu Ziming (仇子明), along with two other bloggers, were the first persons to be charged under the new law as they were detained for “insulting” Chinese soldiers. Qiu, who had 2.4 million fans on his Weibo page, made remarks questioning the number of casualties China said it suffered in the India border clash. He was sentenced to eight months in prison.

Earlier this year, Chinese comedian Li Haoshi was canceled making a joke that indirectly made a comparison between PLA soldiers and stray dogs, while also placing words famously used by Xi Jinping in a ridiculous context.

Screenshot of the draft widely shared on social media.

The draft is open for public comment through September 30, and it is therefore just a draft of a proposed amendment at this point.

Nevertheless, it has ignited many discussions on Chinese social media, where legal experts, bloggers, and regular netizens gave their views on the issue, with many people opposing the amendment.

This a translation of the first four clausules of Article 34 by Jeremy Daum’s China Law Translate (see the full translation here). Note that the discussions are focused on the item (2) and (3) revisions:

“Article 34:Those who commit any of the following acts are to be detained for between 5 and 10 days or be fined between 1,000 and 3,000 RMB; and where the circumstances are more serious, they are to be detained for between 10 and 15 days and may be concurrently fined up to 5,000 RMB:
(1) engaging in activities in public places that are detrimental to the environment and atmosphere for commemorating heroes and martyrs;
(2) Wearing clothing or bearing symbols in public places that are detrimental to the spirit of the Chinese people and hurt the feelings of the Chinese people, or forcing others do do so;
(3) Producing, transmitting, promoting, or disseminating items or speech that is detrimental to the spirit of the Chinese people and hurts the feelings of the Chinese people;
(4) Desecrating or negating the deeds and spirit of heroes and martyrs, or advocating or glorifying wars of aggression or aggressive conduct, provocation, or disrupting public order.”

Here, we mention the biggest online discussions surounding the draft amendment.

 
Main Objections to the Amendment
 

On Chinese social media site Weibo, commenters used various hashtags to discuss the recent draft, including the hashtags “China’s Proposed Amendment to the Public Security Administration Punishments Law” (#我国拟修订治安管理处罚法#), “Article 34 of the Draft Amendment to the Public Security Administration Punishments Law” (#治安管理处罚法修订草案第34条#) or “Harm the Feelings of the Chinese Nation” (#伤害中华民族感情#).

The issue that people are most concerned about is the vague definition “harming or hurting the spirit and feelings of the Chinese nation” (“伤害中华民族精神、感情”).

Although Chinese state media outlets, including the English-language Global Times, indicate that the clause is deemed to target some provocative actions to attract public attention, such as wearing Japanese military uniforms at sensitive sites, legal experts and social media users are expressing apprehensions regarding its ambiguity.

Questions arise: Who determines what qualifies as “harmful”? What criteria will be used? How will it be enforced? Beyond concerns about the absence of clear guidelines on which attire might be deemed illegal and for what reasons, there are fears of potential misinterpretation and misuse of such a law due to its subjective nature.

Some people question whether wearing foreign brands like Adidas or Nike could be considered offensive. There are also concerns about whether wearing sports attire supporting specific clubs might be seen as disrespectful. Another common topic is cosplay, a popular form of role-playing among China’s youth, where individuals dress up in costumes and accessories to portray specific characters. Can people still dress up in the way they like?

Well-known political commentator Hu Xijin published a video commentary about the issue on September 7, suggesting that the law in question could be more concrete and avoid misunderstanding by explicitly mentioning it targets facism, racism, or separatism. He also suggested that it is important for China’s legal system to provide people with a sense of security (– rather than scaring them).

Others reiterated similar views. If the clausules are indeed specifically about slandering national heroes and martyrs, which makes sense considering their context, they should be rephrased. One popular legal blogger (@皇城根下刀笔吏) wrote:

The legal enforceability of harming the spirit and the feelings of the Chinese nation is not quite the same as insulting or slandering heroes. Because it is actually very clear who our national heroes are. They are classified as martyrs and were approved by the state, it’s very clear. But when it comes to the feelings and the spirit of the Chinese nation, this is just very vague (..) And ambiguity brings about a mismatch in the practice of implementation, which will make people lose trust in this legal provision and makes them feel unsafe.”

Although a majority of commenters agree that the proposed amendment is vague, some also express that they would support a ban on clothes that are especially offensive. Among them is the popular blogger Han Dongyan (@韩东言), who has over 2.3 million followers on Weibo.

One example that is mentioned a lot, also by Han, is the 2001 controversy surrounding Chinese actress Vicky Zhao who wore a mini-dress printed with the old Japanese naval flag during a fashion shoot, triggering major backlash over her perceived lack of sensitivity to historical matters and the offensive dress.

Han also mentioned a 2018 example of two young men dressed in Imperial Japanese military uniforms taking a photo in front of the Shaojiashan Bunker at Zijin Mountain, where the Second Sino-Japanese War is commemmorated.

 
Kimono Problems
 

One trending story that is very much entangled with recent discussions about the proposed ban on ‘harmful’ clothing is that about a group of Chinese men and women who were recently denied access to the Panlongcheng National Archaeological Site Park in Wuhan because staff members allegedly mistook their clothing for Japanese traditional attire.

The individuals were actually not wearing Japanese traditional dress at all; they were wearing traditional Tang dynasty clothing to take photos of themselves. This is part of the Hanfu Movement, a social trend that is popular among younger people who supports the wearing of Han Chinese ethnic clothing (read more).

According to Zhengguan News (正观新闻), there is no official park policy prohibiting the wearing of Japanese clothing, and an internal investigation into the incident is ongoing. The Paper reported that the incident allegedly happened around closing time.

Meanwhile, this incident has sparked discussions because it highlights the potential consequences when authorities arbitrarily enforce clothing rules and misinterpret situations. One netizen wrote: “It illustrates that when “some members of the public” cannot even tell the difference between Hanfu, Tang dynasty attire, and Japanese kimono, they are simply venting their emotions.”

Last year, a Chinese female cosplayer who was dressed in a Japanese summer kimono while taking pictures in Suzhou’s ‘Little Tokyo’ area was taken away by local police for ‘provoking trouble’ (read here).

A video showed how the young woman was scolded by an officer for wearing the Japanese kimono, suggesting she is not allowed to do so as a Chinese person. The girl was known to be a cosplayer, and she was dressed up as the character Ushio Kofune from the Japanese manga series Summer Time Rendering, wearing a cotton summer kimono, better known as yukata.

The incident sparked extensive debates, with differing viewpoints emerging. While some believed the girl’s choice of wearing Japanese clothing during the week leading up to August 15, a memorial day marking the end of the war, was insensitive, many commenters defended her right to engage in cosplay.

These discussions are resurfacing on Weibo, underscoring the divided opinions on the matter.

One Weibo user expressed a common viewpoint: “I believe wearing a Japanese kimono in everyday situations is not a problem, but doing so at specific times and places could potentially offend the sentiments of the Chinese nation.” Another blogger (@猹斯拉) also voiced support for a law that could prohibit certain clothing: “If you genuinely believe what you’re wearing is not harmful, you always have the right to make your argument.”

However, there is also significant opposition, with some individuals posting images of themselves reading George Orwell’s 1984 at night or making cynical remarks like, “Maybe we should say nothing and wear nothing, as anything else could lead to our arrest.”

“This is not progress,” another person wrote: “It’s taking another step back in time.”

By Manya Koetse

With contributions by Miranda Barnes

 

Get the story behind the hashtag. Subscribe to What’s on Weibo here to receive our newsletter and get access to our latest articles:

Spotted a mistake or want to add something? Please let us know in comments below or email us. First-time commenters, please be patient – we will have to manually approve your comment before it appears.

©2023 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Continue Reading

Subscribe to our newsletter

Stay updated on what’s trending in China & get the story behind the hashtag
Sign up here to become a premium member of What’s on Weibo today and gain access to all of our latest and premium content, as well as receive our exclusive Weibo Watch newsletter. If you prefer to only receive our free newsletter with an overview of the latest articles, you can subscribe for free here.

Get in touch

Would you like to become a contributor, or do you have any tips or suggestions for us? Get in touch with us here.

Popular Reads