BEIJING (AP) — Chinese police have ordered two men detained for 15 days after they posted pictures on the internet of themselves wearing Japanese World War II army uniforms at the site of one of the war’s worst atrocities.
Nanjing police said the sentences were imposed following widespread outrage online, underscoring the enduring sensitivity among Chinese over Japan’s invasion and occupation of much of the country in the 1930s and 1940s.
The men, aged 22 and 25, were ruled guilty on the broadly defined charge of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” and sentenced to administrative detention, a punishment short of jailing for which no trial is required.
“Individual actions of citizens should not challenge the dignity of the nation and its people,” police said in a statement. “No behavior in public settings or in cyberspace can cross the bottom line of the law.”
One of the two had been tracked to the southwestern province of Sichuan. The statement, dated Tuesday, didn’t say how they were identified, although social media and government databases may have offered clues.
The police statement said the two traveled to Nanjing over the Lunar New Year holiday and the pictures were taken in front of a bunker used by Chinese defenders during the 1937 Japanese assault that ended in the notorious Rape of Nanking.
It said they distributed the photos on the popular QQ messaging service, from where they were reposted around the internet, stirring “extreme rage and severe condemnation.”
Pictures of the two with faces obscured were posted on websites. One wore an officer’s uniform and carried a samurai sword, while the other wore puttees and carried what appeared to be a replica rifle.
More than 70 years after the war ended, Japan’s relations with China remain fraught.
China’s ruling Communist Party derives much of its legitimacy to rule from its much-mythologized role fighting the Japanese, who were opposed mainly by Chiang Kai-shek’s Nationalists. Many Chinese also believe Japan has never showed sincere contrition for the conflict, in which an estimated 15 million to 20 million Chinese were killed.
A memorial hall and museum now stand at the site of a mass grave in the Yangtze River city and annual commemorations in December have been attended by President Xi Jinping and other high-ranking leaders.
In 1937, Nanjing was Chiang’s capital, to which he and his army had retreated following the Japanese occupation of Shanghai to the east after dogged fighting by the Chinese defenders.
After entering the city on Dec. 13, Japanese imperial troops went on a six-week-long rampage, raping and murdering civilians and disarming soldiers, looting and setting much of the city aflame. China puts the number of dead at 300,000, although other estimates place the number considerably lower.