Tag Archives: Japan

The 9.18 Protest: a Show of Force

Much like Tom Lasseter, I had never been to a protest in China before yesterday. Unlike him, though, I’m not a professional reporter, and I got to the scene late, so I was mostly confined to the outskirts with the Chinese media, some expelled protesters, and a few curious onlookers.

I happened to have a camera, and created this video. Nothing about it is particularly good from a videography point of view–virtually everything that could go wrong did at every stage of its production–and to top it all off I got the date wrong. Not the most auspicious start to our plans for adding video content to this site. But I’m going to post it anyway, because I think there are aspects of it you will find interesting.


(Here is a direct link to the video on Youtube. If you live in China, you will need a VPN or some kind of proxy to see it.)

It was especially idiotic of me to get the date wrong, considering that it wasn’t exactly an accident the protesters chose September 18th.

But, as Mr. Lasseter said, it wasn’t much of a protest. It was rainy, there weren’t many people there, and I don’t think Japan is going to leave the Diaoyu Islands or return the Chinese captain just because somebody baked a cake.

Han Han recently wrote a blog post on the subject that was quickly deleted in which he expresses his thoughts on the protest:

People without their own land fighting for someone else’s land; people who aren’t respected demanding that someone else should be respected…how much per kilogram do people like that cost?

But anyway, protesting [something like this] is safe, fun, and makes you look cool. The key is that after the protest is over, you can still work and study as usual, in fact it might even look good on your resume.

[…]

Anyway, none of that is important, what’s important is that if I was allowed to protest for Tang Fuzhen and Xie Chaoping today, I would gladly protest for the Diaoyu Islands or the Olympic Torch tomorrow. But it’s a paradox, because in a time when you could protest for Tang Fuzhen and Xie Chaoping, you wouldn’t have problems like the Diaoyu Islands or [people trying to snuff out] the Olympic Torch to protest about. Protests of external issues are meaningless to a people who can’t protest peacefully about domestic ones, it’s all just an act.

What was impressive was the show of control put on by the police, especially given that the protesters were there in support of the official government line. By the time we got there in the afternoon, police had cordoned off at least a one-block radius in every direction around the Japanese embassy. The streets to the north and east of the embassy, outside of the police tape, were lined with PSB officers, one standing every five feet or so for several blocks. There were easily a hundred of them, and obviously many more inside the police tape.

At the northern entrance to the cordoned-off area on Ritan Road, People’s Armed Police officers in green camouflage guarded the area, but most of the other police there were regular PSB officers, milling about and sometimes photographing or filming the crowds outside their lines. Police vehicles were entering and exiting the scene regularly.

By the time we got to the Western approach to the embassy, where a small crowd had gathered on the intersection of Xiushui St. and Xiushui North St., there were reportedly no protesters left inside the cordoned off area, just some Western reporters and a whole lot of police. It was a show of force, a demonstration of control.

The reporter you can hear in the video above was not the only one complaining bitterly about how the Chinese media wasn’t allowed in. After our camera was turned off, another reporter came up and asked how to get in. “Good luck,” the first reporter said, “they’re not letting anyone Chinese in.” “I’m from Taiwan,” the second reporter said, but he, too, stayed outside the lines. A team from another domestic media outlet circled the scene with us (coincidentally), filming down each street towards where the protesters had been, but were never allowed to pass through police lines.

As I spoke to the protester you hear in the video, one of his friends circled us, photographing me repeatedly. I have no idea why, but it underscored the mood amongst the crowd at the Western entrance — angry, suspicious, and mostly all armed with cameras.

The police, on the other hand, were calm. They directed people around the blocked off area, they stared, and they waited. After all, there were so many of them that nothing was going to happen. And there’s only so long one can spend filming police cars before it’s on to the next story.

One (Bad) Approach to China: Unbearable Arrogance

Fair warning: if you dislike or cannot understand sarcasm, you will want to ignore portions of this post.

I recently read, with some displeasure, this translation by Alice Poon in the Asia Sentinel. It’s worth reading all of if you’re the sort of person who likes making yourself angry, but in case you aren’t, it’s an essay written by a Japanese teacher visiting China, lecturing Chinese students about manners and morality, and talking about how the Chinese education system is flawed because it doesn’t contain a moral component. Where did he get the idea Chinese students had no manners?

One evening after school, I was walking and chatting with another young Chinese teacher in the senior high section. Students were leaving the school premises – they were wearing school uniforms and back-packs; some were chatting loudly, some were eating snacks, while others were flirting with each other. I felt very lonely – not one student paid any attention to us.

Dear God, how could they? Those heartless Chinese bastards. Everyone knows when you’re a student, and you see a teacher walking and conversing with his colleague, you should interrupt them to say goodbye! He continues:

If I behaved like this in Japan, the first time I would be warned; after a couple of times, I would be considered having bad conduct, which would adversely affect my school report. If no improvement was made after several times, my parents would be summoned to the school to attend a ‘three-way’ meeting with the teacher and student. If there was still no change, the student would be expelled. In Japan, students are required to say goodbye to their teachers, basically accompanied by a bending of the body, preferably at 45 degrees.

Ah, yes! Because as we all know, the degree at which one bends one’s body is a direct reflection of one’s level of respect everywhere, not just in Japan! And if the body isn’t bent properly, it stands to reason the student should be expelled. After all, school is about bowing and saying goodbye to teachers, right?

As if being subjected to the barbarism of the Chinese in school wasn’t enough, the poor fellow got on a subway, and what did he see but — horror of horrors — “a child eating a hamburger and speaking loudly and dancing on the seats.”

Ah, yes! Children eating and playing in public — how dare they! What morally bereft parents would allow their child to run around a subway eating and making noise! Surely, in Japan, no such thing would ever happen:

In Japan, parents would probably use the occasion to teach the child a lesson and let him know what is proper and what is not. In my family, my parents would spank my butt, let me reflect on my bad behavior by making me stand outside the house for the whole night, and make me go hungry for a day.

Ah, yes! Exposing your child to the elements overnight, and then starving them for a day! Truly this is the technique of the educated, morally upright parent! What China needs is more child abuse!

OK, I’m all sarcasmed-out. In all seriousness, I could break the logic here down and rip it to shreds but it’s not even worth it. Obviously this guy is, at best, seriously self-absorbed and, at worst, in need of psychiatric help. But it’s worth noting because (1) it’s kind of funny to read things written by morons and (2) expecting China to conform to your own cultural norms is a pitfall that’s very easy to fall into (although few ever fall as deep as this man).

For a much better assessment and discussion of the education system in China, check out this much longer translation and commentary we wrote earlier today. I fear it will get ignored because this one has more swear words.

Unit 731

Most people know about the horrors perpetrated by the sadistic heads of Nazi concentration camps during World War II. Many also know about the American failures to rescue Jewish refugees and the general lack of urgency about shutting down the camps. Fewer know of the atrocities committed by the Japanese during World War II or of the part America played in letting Japanese war criminals off the hook.

WARNING: This post contains graphic descriptions of the horrifying human experiments carried out at Unit 731 by Japanese scientists.

For China, World War II began in 1931, when Japan invaded Manchuria, seizing a large chunk of territory and setting up a puppet state called Manchukuo. Harbin, of course, is a part of that region, and so came under Japanese jurisdiction starting in 1931.

In 1932, the chief medical officer of the Japanese army, Shiro Ishii, was placed in command of the “Army Epidemic Prevention Research Laboratory”, based in a suburb south of Harbin. Here, secret chemical and biological research was conducted until the facility was attacked in 1935. The Japanese government, sold on the usefulness of this type of research, gave Ishii a blank check to begin a more extensive program, and in 1936 his team began work in a much larger facility closer to Harbin. Officially, they were the Epidemic Prevention and Water Purification Department of the Kwantung Army. Colloquially, they were known as Unit 731.

Officially, the 731 was a lumber mill; but in actuality its purpose was human experimentation. Scientists and staff jokingly referred to their test subjects as “logs”; these logs were acquired by the Japanese secret police, who stole men, women, and children off the streets and shipped them by train to Unit 731. What exactly happened to people once they got there? The list is long, and extremely horrible.

For one, the scientists performed numerous vivisections–surgeries on live patients–often without anesthesia. Sometimes they would infect the “test subjects” with diseases first. Sometimes they removed organs. They amputated limbs, sometimes reattaching them to the opposite side of the body, they froze and unthawed body parts to study the effects of gangrene, removed parts of people’s brains, raped and impregnated women and then experimented during the pregnancy. They even performed vivisections on newborn infants.

They tested the effectiveness of explosives (and effective treatments for shrapnel wounds) by tying unprotected test subjects (i.e., Chinese people) to boards at varying distances surrounding an explosive, and then detonating it. They also tested numerous chemical and biological agents in this manner, as well as flame-throwers.

They infected their subjects with numerous diseases from syphilis to the bubonic plague, then infested their living quarters with fleas. The resultant infected fleas were dropped from airplanes over Chinese cities, resulting in thousands of deaths.

Other miscellaneous experiments were also performed. The full extent of these will probably never be known, so here’s a sampling courtesy of Wikipedia. Prisoners were subjected to:

  • being hung upside down to see how long it would take for them to choke to death.
  • having air injected into their arteries to determine the time until the onset of embolism.
  • having horse urine injected into their kidneys.
  • being deprived of food and water to determine the length of time until death.
  • being placed into high-pressure chambers until death.
  • being exposed to extreme temperatures and developed frostbite to determine how long humans could survive with such an affliction, and to determine the effects of rotting and gangrene on human flesh.
  • having experiments performed upon prisoners to determine the relationship between temperature, burns, and human survival.
  • being placed into centrifuges and spun until dead.
  • having animal blood injected and the effects studied.
  • being exposed to lethal doses of x-ray radiation.
  • having various chemical weapons tested on prisoners inside gas chambers.
  • being injected with sea water to determine if it could be a substitute for saline.

The soldiers at Unit 731 even gave out poisoned candy to children to study its effects in the local population.

All of that alone would be horrifying enough, but there’s more. When the war ended, Shrio Ishii and his fellow butchers knew their lives were in danger, but they also know that their experimental data would be of interest to American military scientists (who weren’t allowed to experiment on people) eager to get a head start on the Russians. They met with the Americans and parlayed a deal, trading the data on their horrifying experiments in return for complete and total immunity. To repeat
(for it bears repeating): The United States of America granted the heads of Unit 731 complete immunity. Shiro Ishii died in 1959 of natural causes, without having served a single day in prison.

Today, parts of Unit 731 still exist as a museum in suburban Harbin.