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“I Wish We Never Bought A Japanese Car” – Lasting Scars of Anti-Japanese Demonstrations

Manya Koetse

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It has been four years since violent anti-Japanese demonstrations erupted across China. Still hospitalized for his injuries, Xi’an resident Wang Jianli was attacked during the protests for driving a Japanese car. In a recent interview that has been going around Chinese social media, his wife blames Japan for their suffering.

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.

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Flags hanging from houses in Beijing Gulou area (photo by author).

Sushi restaurant statement: "This sushi comes from Taiwan. This is a CHINESE chain" (photo by author, 2012).

Sushi restaurant statement: “This sushi comes from Taiwan. This is a CHINESE chain” (photo by author, 2012).

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“China’s Diaoyu Islands. Protect the Diaoyu Islands” (t-shirt purchased in 2012, photo by author).

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.

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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$).

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“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.

Wang and his wife.

Wang and his wife.

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.

An official military car by the Toyota brand.

An official military car by the Toyota brand.

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.”

– By Manya Koetse
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©2016 Whatsonweibo. All rights reserved. Do not reproduce our content without permission – you can contact us at info@whatsonweibo.com.

Manya Koetse is the editor-in-chief of www.whatsonweibo.com. She is a writer and consultant (Sinologist, MPhil) on social trends in China, with a focus on social media and digital developments, popular culture, and gender issues. Contact at manya@whatsonweibo.com, or follow on Twitter.

3 Comments

3 Comments

  1. Avatar

    Ed Sander

    December 18, 2016 at 1:02 pm

    “where one demonstrator violently beat him on the head with a stick.”

    Small detail, it wasn’t a stick, it was a heavy bike lock.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hjfFFdT0cZU&noredirect=1

    Here’s a story about Cai Yang, the migrant worker that hit Wang.
    https://www.chinafile.com/fragments-cai-yangs-life

    It’s really sad to hear that Wang’s wife, of all people, is no more sensible than Cai Yang. 🙁

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China Health & Science

Schools in China Are Reopening, But Will Lunch Breaks Ever Be the Same Again?

Chinese students are back to school, but school life is not back to normal.

Manya Koetse

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As most schools across China are opening their doors again, social media users are sharing photos of what school life looks like in the post-COVID-19 outbreak era this week.

Some videos and images that are circulating on Weibo and Wechat show somewhat dystopian images of the post-COVID-19 school life at primary and (senior) high schools – students eating while standing outside in straight lines, or pupils wearing face masks taking turns to eat their lunch (supposedly to reduce the chances of contagion via respiratory droplets, see tweeted video below).

Most schools in China have already started or will open later this month. Only Hubei province and Beijing have not yet announced school reopening plans, Caixin reports.

But although China is gradually back to business after its weeks-long coronavirus lockdown, daily life is far from normal as the country remains on high alert for a possible second wave of COVID-19 infections.

Schools are therefore also taking strict precautions to reduce infection risks both in and outside of the classroom.

Lunch break policy and procedures are just one of the many things that have changed at Chinese schools now.

On Weibo, ‘Henan Education’ is one of many accounts posting about the dramatically different way of eating at China’s school canteens in these post-COVID-19-outbreak times.

In Xingyang city, for example, special supervisors have been allocated to high schools to maintain the order and reduce the number of students gathering at the school entrances and assist students with lunch break seatings at the canteen.

Canteen at Xingyang’s Second Senior High School

At a senior high school in Kaifeng, all students have their lunch breaks in the canteen at one side of the table only, leaving enough space in between the other students.

Other schools have set up their canteens like examination rooms, only allowing one student per table, only facing one direction.

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One Weibo user posts how her Tianjin school is preparing for the lunch break arrangements, with indicators on the floor marking the direction students should walk in and the distance they have to keep from each other.

One other school in Jiangsu’s Huai’an has put dividers on all lunch tables to separate students while having their lunch break.

“It feels like taking exams,” some commenters write about the new lunch break policies. “We can no longer look around and whisper in each other’s ear.”

One school board in the city of Beihai has decided to make use of its new separating screens to stimulate more studying during lunch breaks; they have printed study material for the upcoming ‘gaokao‘ exams on the dividers.

Some netizens think that other schools will follow this example if it appears to be effective. In that way, the post-COVID-19 lunch break will turn into just another study opportunity.

For more COVID-19 related articles, please click here.

By Manya Koetse (@manyapan)
With contributions from Miranda Barnes
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China Health & Science

Distrust and Despair on WeChat and Weibo after Death of Wuhan Whistleblower

Dr. Li is now the face of the coronavirus crisis.

Manya Koetse

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First published

The confusing information flows on the tragic death of Dr. Li are emblematic of the deeper problems behind the Wuhan pneumonia outbreak. Li is now the face of the Coronavirus crisis.

Many Chinese netizens had a sleepless night tonight as reports and posts poured in on the passing of Li Wenliang, one of the doctors who first tried to raise the alarm about the coronavirus outbreak in late December.

Individual posts expressing anger, distrust, and despair flooded Chinese social media after various sources, including the Party news outlet Global Times, first reported that Li had died earlier on Thursday, then later claimed that the young doctor was still alive but in critical condition, only to be followed by more reports stating that Li had passed away at 2:58 AM on Friday.

The 34-year-old doctor Li Wenliang was one of the eight ‘whistleblowers’ who tried to warn his colleagues about the Wuhan virus outbreak in late 2019, but was censored and reprimanded by local police for making “false comments.”

He later became infected with the virus himself while working at the Wuhan Central Hospital.

At a certain moment on early Friday morning, both the hashtags “Li Wenliang Is Still Being Rescued” (#李文亮仍在抢救#) and the hashtag “Dr. Li Wenliang Has Passed Away” (#李文亮医生去世#) were trending on Chinese social media at the same time, with netizens’ anger and confusion growing.

The Wuhan Central Hospital confirmed Li’s death in an online announcement the early hours of Friday morning.

As discussions flared up on Weibo, netizens soon discovered that many posts were deleted, that only “blue V” Weibo accounts (verified official government, media, website, business etc accounts) were able to publish posts about Li’s passing, and that news relating to Li was seemingly kept out of the top search lists on Weibo.

In response to this, the hashtag “Can You Manage, Do You Understand?” (#你能做到吗?你听明白了吗#) surfaced on Weibo, which is a reference to the letter Li was forced to sign earlier this year for “disturbing public order.”

Many netizens are not just expressing their anger and sadness over the death of Li, but also about the way it was reported and the distrust in media, authorities, and social media platforms that comes with it.

The letter Dr. Li was made to sign acknowledging that he was “making false comments.”

By early Friday morning, the phrase “Can You Manage, Do You Understand?” seems to have become a protest slogan for freedom of speech.

The messiness of Chinese media first reporting his death, then claiming Li was still on life support, and then the definite news of his passing has struck a nerve among netizens as it also epitomizes the handling of the Wuhan virus outbreak itself.

Some Weibo users suggest that official media purposely changed the narrative on Li’s passing to control the public opinion on the issue.

Many people express their frustration about not being able to trust supposedly trustworthy sources.

“They wouldn’t let him live when he was alive, they wouldn’t let him die when he was dead,” some write.

“Our hero, rest in peace,” many commenters say.

Dr. Li is survived by his pregnant wife and their first child.

For more information about the main social media trends in China regarding the coronavirus, also see our article on the 8 Major Trends in Times of 2019-nCoV.

By Manya Koetse, additional research by Miranda Barnes
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