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2019-07-30 11:19:00

An amateur Chinese cartoonist and her collaborator have been arrested for allegedly sharing anti-China comics to gain fame in a pro-Japan subculture, according to Chinese authorities.

On Sunday, police in the eastern Anhui province said they had arrested a cartoonist surnamed Zhang in May for disseminating content that “humiliates China.” The 22-year-old is accused of producing comic strips that “depict Chinese as pigs” and sharing them on domestic and international social media platforms. Police added she had done so to gain fame in the jingri community.

In China, members of the jingri subculture consider themselves to be “spiritually Japanese,” worshipping that country’s society and history. Though it is unclear how and when the trend started, China’s jingri have repeatedly landed in hot water for provocative behavior — like dressing up as World War II-era Japanese soldiers — that is purportedly aimed at gaining online fame.

In a separate statement Sunday, police in the northeastern Liaoning province said they had arrested another Chinese national, surnamed Lu, for collaborating with Zhang. The 36-year-old had met Zhang online in 2017 while living in Japan and had allegedly helped share her comics on social media since January 2018. Lu was taken into custody when he later returned to China, though police didn’t specify the date or any other details regarding his arrest.

Roughly 300 of Zhang’s comic strips were found to have “intentionally twisted Chinese history, satirized and vilified Chinese lifestyles … and humiliated China,” the Anhui police statement said.

Japan’s wartime deeds remain deeply ingrained in the collective memories of Chinese citizens and authorities. The mass murder of Chinese in the city of Nanjing by the invading Japanese army in 1937 — often referred to as the Nanjing Massacre or the Rape of Nanjing — remains a sensitive issue, with the Chinese government claiming that Japan has failed to take responsibility for the atrocity.

In 2017, five people were placed under administrative detention in Shanghai after posing in World War II-era Japanese military uniforms at the site of a famous battle. And last year, Nanjing police announced that a man had been detained for posting “extremist speech” about the 1937 massacre in a private chat group.

On Sunday, Nanjing police revealed that they had arrested a man in May for denying the existence of the massacre on microblogging platform Weibo. He has been accused of hacking into 100 Weibo accounts to post messages claiming the national tragedy never occurred.

In April 2018, China passed a bill that makes it illegal to defame domestic war heroes, deny historical events, or glorify foreign invasions — though in practice, many such actions were already being punished in the years leading up to this formal prohibition.

Editor: Bibek Bhandari.

(Header image: A comic strip by a cartoonist surnamed Zhang, who has been arrested by Anhui police, depicts Chinese people as pigs. @淮南帮 on Weibo)