Chinese authorities have launched a nationwide rectification campaign of religious venues after reports of a woman enshrining World War II criminals in a Buddhist temple sparked outrage and fueled anti-Japanese sentiment.
“Regional authorities should urge religious organizations to conduct a comprehensive self-inspection and correct irregularities at once if any are found,” the National Religious Affair Administration said Tuesday, ordering the whole sector to conduct patriotic education and “practice core socialist values” to stamp out questionable incidents in the future.
The scrutiny comes after photos of memorial tablets with the names of four Japanese war criminals — Iwane Matsui, Takeshi Noda, Hisao Tani, and Gunkichi Tanaka — were enshrined at Xuanzang Temple. All four were perpetrators in the Nanjing Massacre in 1937, which resulted in 300,000 civilian deaths and thousands of women being raped.
The woman, Wu Aping, who had installed the tablets has been detained by police. She is accused of “picking quarrels and provoking troubles,” a crime with a maximum prison sentence of 10 years.
An investigation by a task force formed by the Nanjing government released Monday showed Wu paid 3,000 yuan ($445) to place six memorial tablets of five Japanese war criminals and an American missionary helping Chinese people seek refuge during the massacre.
Two officials in Nanjing’s religious affairs bureau have been removed and another seven have received warnings, the investigation said. The abbot in the temple was also removed after the investigation showed he failed to report the issue to authorities after discovering it in February.
“I am very ashamed of myself and apologize to all for this unforgivable mistake and the tremendous trauma it has caused,” the abbot told local media.
Together with the supervision of the National Religious Affairs Administration, the Buddhist Association of China on Monday ordered all Buddhist temples across the nation to conduct a self-review, claiming it has “zero tolerance of any behavior jeopardizing national interests and hurting national feelings.”
But the response hasn’t quelled the rise in nationalistic sentiment, as social media users started to boycott Japanese animation fairs, leading to the cancellation of events in multiple cities.
Editor: Bibek Bhandari.
(Header image: Xuanzang Temple is closed to public, Nanjing, Jiangsu province, July 23, 2022. VCG)