Saturday, March 19, 2011

Quake sparks war of words on Net

Mar 19, 2011

tsunami: human tragedy

Netizens revelling in Japan's disaster taken to task by others calling for show of compassion
By Ho Ai Li

BEIJING: A war of words has broken out on Chinese Internet forums between those gloating over the quake and tsunami that hit Japan last Friday and others calling for more compassion.

Some Chinese have posted messages online to 'warmly welcome' the disaster that has befallen the Japanese: 'Let's celebrate a certain country's 9.0,' one wrote.

'Japan should have been sunk long ago. The quake's too light, the tsunami's too small. It would be good if they had toppled the damned Yasukuni Shrine,' wrote another, in reference to the shrine that is a symbol of Japanese militarism and wartime atrocities for many Chinese.

Type the words for 'warmly welcome' - re lie huan ying - on Chinese search engine Baidu and the words for 'Japan earthquake' pop up instantly.

But Chinese netizens of a more empathetic bent have been swift to condemn these offensive comments.

One wrote: 'We're all humans. Another country has a disaster and you guys are celebrating? Shameful!'

Said another: 'When China had an earthquake, the whole of Japan donated money. Now Japan has a quake, all you guys are celebrating... Patriotism doesn't mean we extinguish our conscience.'

Many have also offered prayers for the victims in Japan. Top Chinese leaders have extended their condolences, with Premier Wen Jiabao making it a point to convey his deep sympathy to Japanese reporters at a press conference with local and foreign media on Monday.

Still, the insensitive comments underline how Japan's invasion of China during World War II, as well as more recent bilateral spats, continue to rankle with many Chinese.

Last September, relations between Beijing and Tokyo hit a low after a collision between a Chinese fishing boat and a Japanese patrol boat in the waters near disputed islets known as Diaoyu in China and Senkaku in Japan.

Overall though, observers say they have been pleasantly surprised by how messages of support for Japan have outnumbered incendiary ones, even though Chinese public sentiment had previously been largely hostile towards Japan.

'This time round, the Chinese public are behaving in a way more worthy of how citizens of a big country should behave,' said Professor Zhou Yongsheng of the China Foreign Affairs University.

That some still express hatred towards the Japanese is something that cannot be helped, said Prof Zhou, a Sino-Japanese relations expert. 'China is such a big country, there are all kinds of people.'

Businessman Ma Youliang, 54, who shuttles between China and Japan for work, also believes those expressing callous comments are in the minority.

'I feel these people are very ignorant. They are probably teens who hang out at Internet cafes. People who are more cultured won't say such things,' said Mr Ma, who runs a trading firm.

The country's media has also urged the Chinese to show sympathy and to take a leaf from the orderly behaviour of the Japanese in the face of crisis.

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