Chinese authorities reportedly arrested nine citizens regarded as “spiritually Japanese” for actions allegedly promoting “anti-China extremism” late last month.
The arrests, which involved cartoonists and cosplayers, marks the first time a relatively large group of so-called people were apprehended across six cities in one day.
“Spiritually Japanese” is a derogatory term for Chinese fans of anime and cosplay, according to Yahoo! News Japan. However, the Communist Youth League of China explicitly states that the term, also known as jingri (精日), refers to Chinese people patronizing Japanese nationalism — particularly their World War II military — and expressing contempt for their own country.
Jingri went viral in March 2018 when two young people were arrested in Nanjing for cosplaying Japanese World War II military uniforms. At the time, Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi reportedly described jingri as “scumbags among Chinese people.”
Among those arrested in July is Zhang Dongning, a 22-year-old cartoonist from Anhui who has created more than 300 satirical cartoons depicting Chinese people as pigs.
Zhang, who refers to her cartoons as “pigple,” has satirized trends such as the traditional Han couture craze, veterans’ demand for unpaid retirement benefits and tourists’ frenzy over a buffet in Thailand, according to The Epoch Times.
The fresh college graduate especially struck nerves ahead of New Year’s Day, when she posted another caricature “celebrating” China’s transition into the Year of the Pig.
The controversial piece shows a map of China as a sad and prostrated pig with several “pigple” protesting recent issues that gripped the country.
Zhang was arrested with a 36-year-old collaborator surnamed Lu, who allegedly assisted in disseminating her cartoons on social media.
In a statement, police accused Zhang of “insulting Chinese people’s image, intentionally distorting China’s historical facts and misinterpreting trending news in China and overseas.”
Speaking to Inkstone, Zang Qiyu, a criminal defense attorney based in Beijing, said that he believes Zhang had committed no crime.
“Zhang was doing creative work. Cartoonists usually exaggerate reality to make a point. So hers should be viewed as a form of art,” he said.
Japan’s actions in World War II remain ingrained in the collective consciousness of Chinese people. The Nanjing Massacre, also known as the Rape of Nanjing, is especially a painful memory — and China believes Japan has failed to take responsibility for more than 300,000 murders, according to state-run news outlet Xinhua.
It’s unclear what charges Zhang and the rest of the detainees are facing. Fu Wen, a lawyer based in Shandong, commented, “For this [Zhang’s] case, if there is any victim, it would be all Chinese people, but there’s a question of whether every Chinese person would think that their personal dignity and reputation have been harmed.”
Feature Images (right) via bannedbook.org