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Harmful calls, espionage and disinformation: how China is “harassing” Japan over Fukushima

TThe phones at the Japanese Embassy in Beijing have been ringing since last month as the date approaches when Japan will have to release treated water from Fukushima into the Pacific Ocean.

And on August 25, when Japan began dumping, a key step toward decommissioning Fukushima, the embassy in the Chinese capital said a staggering 40,000 people had called to register their protest.

Embassy officials called the calls a “nuisance” — more than 400,000 in total — and said they were beginning to hamper their daily work. Often, these callers were highly critical of Japan or chose to remain silent, sources in Japan said. Times.

But the “harassment” doesn’t stop there. Sources told the newspaper that threatening calls were also made to the embassy.

Local media, citing government sources, said that on average the embassy continued to receive at least 10,000 of these “nuisance calls” per day. Shortly after the liberation of Fukushima, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida called on China to stop the continuous flow of phone calls and condemned several other violent incidents targeting Japanese schools and the embassy in Beijing.

Japan has also raised concerns about these calls – allegedly from Chinese phone numbers – targeting local institutions and businesses.

The Fukushima nuclear power plant suffered a triple meltdown after being hit by a tsunami in 2011, the world’s worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl 25 years earlier.

China even summoned Japan’s ambassador over the water discharge and imposed a ban on Japanese seafood, which Tokyo called “completely unacceptable.” Mr. Kishida announced an emergency fund of $141 million for exporters affected by Chinese restrictions.

China said the move was aimed at preventing “the risk of radioactive contamination of food safety caused by the release of nuclear-contaminated water from Fukushima in Japan” and protecting the health of Chinese consumers.

Sino-Japanese relations, already tense, have deteriorated since the day of publication.

China is not alone in its opposition to the Fukushima water spill. Several environmental groups and residents in Japan and South Korea have expressed opposition to the discharge of the treated water.

However, the move reportedly led to increased surveillance of Japanese nationals living in China.

Local media, citing sources close to the government, reported that Beijing had conducted investigations into the backgrounds of those involved in the release negotiations. China implemented a revised counterespionage law in July, expanding the definition of espionage and encompassing a wider range of activities.

According to Statista, as of October last year, around 102,100 Japanese residents were living in China – the lowest number in the last decade. “During the observed period, the number of Japanese residents declined steadily each year, starting at more than 135,000 Japanese expatriates in 2013,” the report said.

Beijing has maintained firm opposition to Japan’s ocean discharges, calling them “nuclear contaminated” and insisting they be stopped immediately. Mr. Kishida even ate a piece of fish caught in the area where radioactive wastewater was released to show that the water was safe.

But that barely eased the crisis.

Anger against Japan and Japanese nationals in China is also fueled by an anti-Japanese campaign in Chinese state media. In fact, Chinese customers are calling for a boycott of Japanese products, from skincare to everyday household items.

Earlier this week, stoking anger and resentment, the Chinese embassy in Japan claimed that China had not been invited to participate in the analysis and comparative testing of water contaminated with nuclear substances.

“If the Japanese side really has confidence in the treatment of water contaminated by nuclear weapons, it must respond seriously and responsibly,” the embassy said.

Logically, an organization that aims to combat disinformation has claimed that since January of this year, the Chinese government and state media have been involved in a “coordinated disinformation campaign” centered on the release of nuclear wastewater. As part of this campaign, Chinese mainstream media have consistently cast doubt on the scientific basis for the release of nuclear wastewater.

“It’s quite obvious that this is politically motivated,” Hamsini Hariharan, a China expert at Logically, was quoted as saying by the BBC.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) approved the plan in July, saying it met international standards and the impact it would have on people and the environment was “negligible.”

In August, media reported that Beijing was accused of hypocrisy and exploiting the incident to fuel anti-Japanese sentiment. Scientists have noted that Chinese nuclear power plants discharge wastewater containing higher levels of tritium than those at Fukushima. The Guardian reported. They emphasized that all of these levels are within safe limits that are not considered harmful to human health.

A 2016 Pew Research Center study indicated that “in the cases of China and Japan, publics tend to have largely negative stereotypes about each other.” He said that “the Chinese and the Japanese consider each other violent. About eight in ten Japanese people describe the Chinese as arrogant, while seven in ten Chinese people view the Japanese in this light.

Japan-bashing also has a historical context, given Japan’s troubled history in China during the 20th century, marked by wartime atrocities.

Several reports indicate that this story is part of the curriculum for Chinese students, who learn of Japan’s past misdeeds and are often led to believe that Japan has not apologized sufficiently for its past actions. Today, the release of Fukushima wastewater is yet another reason for the Xi Jinping regime to once again stir up anti-Japanese sentiment.

For many decades, China’s leaders have balanced their legitimacy by relying on both economic achievements and nationalism, pillars of support for the rule of the Communist Party of China, the Communist Party of China. Washington Post cited Suisheng Zhao, an academic at the University of Denver.

However, as China faces increasing economic challenges, it is increasingly necessary for President Xi Jinping to place greater emphasis and reliance on nationalist expressions of an “anti-foreigner” nature, he said. he declared.

The last time anti-Japanese sentiment was stoked in this way was in 2012, when Shintaro Ishihara, then governor of Tokyo, made a move to nationalize the disputed East China Sea islands. These islands are known as the Senkaku Islands in Japan and the Diaoyu Islands in China. This event led to widespread protests and tensions between Japan and China over territorial claims.

Several protests were authorized by Beijing officials outside the Japanese embassy, ​​according to reports. It was only when protesters began vandalizing Japanese-made vehicles – such as Honda and Nissan cars – that Beijing called for “rational” displays of patriotism.

Previously, relations between Japan and China came under strain in 2010 due to an incident involving a collision between a Chinese fishing boat and a Japanese coast guard vessel near the disputed islands in the China Sea eastern. The detention of the Chinese fishing boat captain following the incident exacerbated tensions between the two countries and led to a diplomatic standoff.

independent

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