Fukushima water discharge: Japanese living in China encouraged to be discreet

The discharge of water from the Fukushima plant into the ocean continues to make waves with Japan's neighboring countries, starting with China. Japanese diplomacy denounced a Chinese harassment campaign as "extremely regrettable".

Japanese couple in Beijing, August 24, 2023. © Andy Wong / AP

By: RFI Follow


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From our correspondent in China, Stéphane Lagarde

Anonymous phone calls received by Japanese companies in China, throwing objects at institutions, including some schools and the gate of the Japanese embassy in Beijing... These gestures are considered "worrying" by Tokyo, which has advised its nationals to be discreet, not to speak loudly in public in particular, while acknowledging that for the moment they were only isolated gestures.

See alsoFukushima water discharge: China suspends Japanese fish imports

« Chernobyl revisited »

We are far from the tensions of 2010, when demonstrators marched in front of the Japanese representation in China with placards showing the Japanese Prime Minister as a pig or attacked Japanese cars on Chinese roads. No demonstrations, for now. The most virulent comments can be found on social networks, even if censorship tries to control the excesses of some nationalists and online hatred.

Regarding calls for boycotts, netizens say they have given up on the planned purchase of a Japanese product or service. 173,000 Internet users connected to the Sina Weibo network responded that tourism to the archipelago would decrease. But 22,000 voters believe that after "storm Fukushima", travel to Japan will resume. Still concerning the criticism on the networks: we find among the hashtags that have circulated a lot in recent days, that of #重温切尔诺贝利 ("Chernobyl revisited", in French) with arguments partly taking up the elements of official languages on a supposed double standard. "400 people sacrificed their lives to save half of Europe and they received opprobrium for decades," writes one Weibonaut. Today, Japan is dumping its sewage, which is extremely selfish and irresponsible, and is not doomed." Others compare the supposed lack of transparency of Tepco, the operator of the Fukushima nuclear power plant, to the "omerta of the Soviet Union."

Sushi is not over

For some commentators in China, it would be easy for the Japanese authorities to "victimize" themselves by denouncing a campaign of harassment. But for now, only seafood from the archipelago, already blocked since 2011 according to Japanese diplomats, is banned. But there has been no call for bigger boycotts for the Japanese economy. The sign that for the moment Beijing is not willing to go too far in this standoff that could have consequences in terms of jobs on Chinese fisheries in a sluggish economy.

After a video went viral showing a Japanese restaurant owner tearing apart the décor of his establishment following Tokyo's decision, this new crisis between the two countries has mainly forced Japanese restaurants in China to admit that they use almost no Japanese products on their menus.

In Beijing, as in Shanghai and Shenzhen, there has even been a "sushi race" in recent days. "The decision to dump the waters of the Japanese power plant into the ocean will not improve Japan's image in China and the region, but for now, I continue to come here," says a customer on the terrace of a "Teriyaki" in the Wangjing district north of the Chinese capital. We still have four years before the contaminated water from Fukushima arrives in China, another customer at the next table believes, we will be able to enjoy this excellent sushi for a while."

" READ ALSO Discharge of Fukushima waters: in China, discontent rises vis-à-vis Japan

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  • China
  • Japan
  • Fukushima
  • Nuclear