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“History Won’t Forget”: Chinese Reactions to Japan’s Fukushima Water Release in 5 Trending Hashtags

Furious responses from Chinese media and netizens after Japan starts releasing Fukushima water into the Pacific: “The entire world will remember what the Japanese government did this day.”

Manya Koetse




After Japan started to release the first batch of treated Fukushima water into the ocean, Chinese state media launched a strong condemnation campaign on social platforms, while netizens react with panic buying, boycotts, and waves of anti-Japanese sentiments.

Japan’s decision to commence the release of treated radioactive water from the ruined Fukushima nuclear plant on August 24 has taken center stage on Chinese social media this week.

These days, Weibo and other Chinese social media platforms saw a surge of state media slogans directed against Japan, as well as furious posts from well-known bloggers and regular netizens.

Japan will release the treated water stored in tanks at the site into the ocean over the duration of about 17 days, but that is only for this first batch. The release of all the wastewater is estimated to take about 30 years.

Japan’s plans to discharge wastewater from the Fukushima nuclear plant, which was severely damaged by the Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami on March 11 of 2011, were found to be consistent with international safety standards by the International Atomic Energy Agency earlier this year. Following the tsunami, over 1.3 million cubic meters of seawater were employed to cool the damaged reactor cores and prevent overheating.

Some scientists argue that the continued storage of cooling water in tanks, which are running out of storage, might pose a far greater risk compared to treating and diluting the water before releasing it into the ocean.

However, there is a significant range of opinions on this matter, and numerous voices oppose the intentional release of hazardous substances into the environment. Concerns are prevalent regarding the potential long-term effects on human health, wildlife, and the local fishing industry.

Foreign criticism, much seen on Twitter, that Chinese nuclear plants have allegedly released far more radiation into the sea, is ‘debunked’ by Chinese netizens by posting an image that is supposed to show the difference in the kind of water that is discharged: the ‘clean’ water (top) and the contaminated water (buttom). Instead of scientifically-backed information, the content that is mainly gaining traction these days is driven by emotions, anxiety, distrust, and nationalism.

Meme showing “normal” nuclear wastewater compared to the Fukushima wastewater.

Over the past two days, at least five out of the top ten trending topics on Baidu’s hot news lists and the Weibo platform are linked to the discharge from the nuclear plant and its potential direct and indirect consequences.

We explain the top 5 biggest hashtags on Chinese social media and what’s behind them.


1: History Will Remember #历史会记住日本政府这一笔#


Among the top trending topics related to Japan’s release of Fukushima water is that “History will remember this move by the Japanese government” (#历史会记住日本政府这一笔#).

This phrase, turned into a hashtag, was initiated by Chinese state media outlet CCTV and also propagated by other official media, including China News Service.

Post by CCTV, screenshot by What’s on Weibo.

“The people will remember, all the living creatures will remember,” one popular blogger’s post said, including various images of cute water animals. Other bloggers also followed with similar posts, writing things such as, “The sea otters will remember,” or “the entire world will remember what the Japanese government did this day [August 24].”

One post claimed that “the sea otters will also remember.”

While the expression pertains to the ecological consequences of the Fukushima water release, it also situates the incident within a broader historical framework where Japan assumes an aggressor role, with many online posts making direct or indirect references to the Second Sino-Japanese War (1937-1945) and WWII while voicing hate against Japan.

One Weibo user wrote: “History remembers, but the damned devils forget again. Do they remember the Anti-Japanese War? Are their brain cells telling them to destroy the earth?” Many other posts called Japan’s leadership “inhumane” and “evil.”

Online propaganda posters condeming Japan, by CCTV and Xinhua.

As is often done when there are major international clashes, Chinese state media outlets released online posters and slogans in relation to the event. In the Xinhua one, Japan was called a “destroyer” and “polluter.”

In an online media sphere where anti-Japanese voices are already ubiquitous in regular times, this ongoing event is another catalyst, igniting a resurgence of cybernationalism and intensified anti-Japanese rhetoric.


2: China Suspends Import of Japanese Seafood #中方暂停进口日本水产品是完全必要的#


A second prominent subject of discussion is China’s decisive move to suspend the import of all Japanese aquatic products, which is deemed “absolutely necessary” (#中方暂停进口日本水产品是完全必要的#, 790 million views). Since the Fukushima disaster in 2011, China had already banned the import of almost all food products from prefectures near Fukushima.

China-based restaurants or online shops are also strictly prohibited from preparing and selling seafood products originating from Japan (#严禁采买日本水产品网络销售#, 85 million views).

While these news reports and related hashtags pages are initiated by state media outlets, like Global Times (环球网) and People’s Daily (人民日报), they also strike a chord with Chinese online users who harbor concerns about the potential direct repercussions of the Fukushima water release. The decision to entirely halt the import of Japanese aquatic products is decided by higher authorities, and reinforced by overwhelming public support.

This public support also arises from concerns about the implications of Japan’s decision for the well-being of Chinese citizens. These anxieties are intensified by reports in Chinese media, such as a recent one that highlighted “heavy rainfall in Osaka on the day of nuclear water discharge” (#日本核污染水排海当天大阪突降暴雨#, 230 million views). This report insinuated a direct link between the water discharge and the sudden rainstorm.


3: Panic Buying of Salt #中盐集团回应食盐抢购现象#


The commotion surrounding the news that Japan would start discharging the contaminated water into the ocean has led to people hoarding salt in supermarkets across the country. Online shops also ran out of salt.

Some online photos showed people leaving the supermarket with boxes filled with bags of salt.

The rush to hoard salt originates from worries about salt shortages, but it’s also driven by the belief that salt can act as an antidote for radiation poisoning. However, table salt is actually not advised to be used as a substitute for potassium iodide (KI) as it does not help with radiation poisoning, and eating large amounts could be harmful.

The surge in panic buying is tied to concerns about the repercussions of radioactive water in the sea. However, it also reflects a recurring pattern witnessed over the three years of dealing with Covid in China and pre-lockdown hoarding tendencies (see for example, or here), giving people a sense of control in a situation that is out of their control.

Meanwhile, salt industry associations and groups nationwide have appealed to the public not to engage in panic buying or hoarding of salt, stating that China has plenty of salt resources and that 90% of its salt production is not sea salt and remains completely unaffected by Japan’s nuclear pollution (#中盐集团回应食盐抢购现象#, 170 million views).


4: Consumer Boycott of Japanese Cosmetics #多家日妆品牌遭遇退货#


In the aftermath of the Japanese government’s formal announcement regarding the release of treated nuclear water into the sea, a substantial number of Chinese netizens have not only expressed their intent to abstain from consuming Japanese food, but have also committed to refraining from purchasing other Japanese products, including cosmetics.

Japanese cosmetic brands, including SK-II, Shiseido and Kose, are usually very popular among Chinese consumers. But since June 2023, when the tests began to discharge treated radioactive wastewater into the sea, consumers raised concerns about the safety of products originating from Japan.

According to Jing Daily, an online poll was conducted via social media app Xiaohongshu at the time. Out of 4,472 participants surveyed, approximately 79 percent conveyed their intention to discontinue the use of Japanese skincare and makeup products due to safety apprehensions.

This week, in a Weibo poll conducted by Sina News, more than 90 percent of respondents expressed their determination to stop buying Japanese cosmetics. Meanwhile, the hashtag “Several Japanese Cosmetic Brands See Items Returned” (#多家日妆品牌遭遇退货#, 120 million views), was among the top trending hashtags on Weibo.

This not only highlights their concerns about the safety of these products but also reflects a form of consumer nationalism, where boycotting Japanese goods becomes a manifestation of political activism.

The nationalistic intent behind this consumer behavior is emphasized by the state media outlet People’s Daily. They reported a news item about Chinese consumers purportedly returning Japanese cosmetics under the slogan: “We Endorse Made-in-China” (#我为国货代言#).


5: The People Can’t Bear It #日本核污染水排海民众忍无可忍#


Other trending hashtags highlight how Japanese people themselves are also allegedly opposing their government’s decision to release Fukushima water.

One trending hashtag, “People Can’t Bear Japan Discharging Nuclear-Contaminated Water Into the Sea” (#日本核污染水排海民众忍无可忍#), has garnered over 710 million views on Weibo. It showcases how Fukushima residents expressed their concerns to Chinese reporters, criticizing the Japanese government and reiterating their opposition to the decision to release the radioactive water into the ocean.

Another popular hashtag is “Japan Scolded for Promoting Nuclear Contaminated Water to Students” (#日本向学生宣传核污水安全被骂#, 110 million views). Since 2021, the Japanese government allegedly distributed pamphlets at schools around the country to promote the “safety” and “lack of impact on health” of nuclear contaminated water.

Chinese media report how local educators have criticized these pamphlets for “deceiving innocent children.”

While there is an online inclination to distinguish between the Japanese government and the Japanese people, there are also online trends that criticize Japanese residents. For instance, there’s a story circulating about Japanese individuals swimming in the sea on August 25 (#核污水排海后日本人在海里游泳#). Some comments read, “You see, they just don’t care,” while many others exhibit clear anti-Japanese sentiments, saying, “Let them swim in it and drink their contaminated water.”

In light of the waves of anti-Japanese sentiments that China’s online media environment has seen over the past few days, the Japanese embassy in Beijing issued a warning to Japanese citizens in China on its website on August 25. They advise Japanese citizens to be careful when going out, and to refrain from “unnecessarily speaking Japanese loudly” (#日本大使馆提醒在华日本民众不要大声说日语#).

Meanwhile, at the time of writing, another Japan-related hashtag has surged to the number one spot on Weibo’s top trending lists, namely “Two Earthquakes In One Day” (#日本一天内两次地震#, 210 million views), about Japan experiencing two offshore earthquakes. “It’s karma,” many commenters write, with others also echoing a popular view: “It’s not a coincidence. The heavens are watching.”

By Manya Koetse

With contributions by Miranda Barnes

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

Manya Koetse is the founder and editor-in-chief of She is a writer, public speaker, and researcher (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends, digital developments, and new media in an ever-changing China, with a focus on Chinese society, pop culture, and gender issues. She shares her love for hotpot on Contact at, or follow on Twitter.

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China Local News

Changsha Restaurant Employee Pays the Price after Protecting Abused Child

A Changsha restaurant employee who intervened when a mother beat her child ended up paying the price for it.

Manya Koetse



The story of a restaurant employee who had to pay the price for sharing a video of a mother beating her child has triggered anger on Chinese social media.

The incident happened on September 14, when Mr. Jiang (江), an employee at the ‘Peng Shu’ Western-style restaurant in Changsha, stopped a mother from beating her young daughter at the shopping mall where the restaurant is located.

As reported by the Guizhou media channel People’s Focus (@百姓关注), a mother and daughter at the restaurant drew the staff’s attention when the mother began physically assaulting her daughter.

The mother, clearly overwhelmed by her emotions, resorted to kicking, hitting, yelling, and even attempting to strike her child with a chair, allegedly in response to the child accidentally spilling ice cream on her clothing.

During this distressing incident, which was captured on video, Mr. Jiang and another colleague intervened to protect the child and immediately alerted the police to the situation.

But the one who was punished in the end was not the mother.

The video of this incident was shared online, leading the woman to repeatedly visit the restaurant in frustration over her unblurred face in the video. The police had to mediate in this dispute.

To the dismay of many netizens, the employee ended up being forced to pay the woman 10,000 yuan ($1369) in compensation for “moral damages.” He has since resigned from his job and has left Changsha. A related hashtag was viewed over 110 million times on Weibo (#餐厅员工发顾客打娃视频后赔1万离职#) and also became a hot topic on Douyin.

The majority of commenters expressed their anger at the unjust outcome where a restaurant employee, who had attempted to protect the child, faced repercussions while the mother appeared to avoid any legal consequences for her actions.

“Where is the All-China Women’s Federation when you need them?” some wondered, while others wanted to know why the incident was not followed up with an immediate investigation into the child abuse. Others suggested that if it were a man who had beaten his child, authorities would have been quicker to intervene.

The issue of corporal punishment for children often comes up in Chinese social media discussions. While many people find it unacceptable to beat children, using violence to discipline children is also commonplace in many families.

When China’s first national law against domestic violence came into effect on 1 March 2016, article 5 and 12 specifically addressed the special legal protection of children and made family violence against children against the law.

By Manya Koetse

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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

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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



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

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