A Chinese woman said she was detained by police for hours and accused of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble” for wearing a Japanese kimono and taking photos in a city street.
The woman was wearing the kimono and a wig while cosplaying as a popular character from the manga series Summer Time Rendering. She was taking photos in Suzhou when she and her photographer were approached by a police officer, according to video filmed and shared to social media.
In the video, the woman explains she was conducting a photoshoot, but an officer tells her: “If you came here wearing Hanfu, I wouldn’t say this. But you are wearing a kimono, as a Chinese. You are a Chinese! Are you?”
Hanfu is a term for traditional Han Chinese dress. The woman asked why she was being yelled at and was told she was suspected of “picking quarrels and provoking trouble”, a catchall accusation used routinely by Chinese authorities against dissidents, journalists and activists.
The video cuts out shortly after she is grabbed by officers and taken away.
The woman said she had been queuing for food on a street famed for its Japanese restaurants when the officer approached. She said she was taken to the station and questioned for about five hours until 1am and that her phone was searched and her kimono confiscated. She said she was “educated” and told not to discuss the incident online.
Suzhou police could not be contacted and are yet to comment publicly on the woman’s claims.
The video was viewed by tens of millions and prompted heated discussion on Chinese social media, where nationalism has been on the rise. Hostility or unease towards Japan has existed within China for decades, over its brutal invasion and occupation of China and wartime atrocities such as the Nanjing massacre. Regular visits by Japanese politicians to the Yasukuni shrine also routinely prompt outrage in China and other Asian nations such as South Korea.
In recent years, Japan’s government has grown more outwardly assertive towards Beijing’s expansionist behaviour in the region, in particular towards Taiwan. As it has more closely aligned with the US and other western allies, official and domestic Chinese anger towards Japan has grown.
But online many commenters appeared to think the woman’s alleged treatment was over-the-top. Some urged people to cool down the “ultra-nationalism” or expressed concern about judging the clothes people wore. Pre-pandemic, renting a kimono or the more lightweight yukata for photoshoots was a popular activity for Chinese tourists in Japan.
“I really feel that the social atmosphere has made people speechless to the point where I don’t want to say anything,” said one.
“It’s OK to educate her, but isn’t it a bit too much to accuse her of ‘picking quarrels and stirring up trouble’ and take her away?” said another.
Others noted the timing – around the anniversary of Japan’s surrender 77 years ago – suggesting the woman should have been more sensitive and brought the attention on herself.
Prominent hawkish commentator and the former Global Times editor, Hu Xijin, also weighed in, saying her actions were not illegal and people should be able to dress freely but there were sensitivities.
“Kimono should not be banned in our society, and in fact there is no such ban. But when someone wants to wear a kimono, I advise them to pay attention to the surrounding environment … to avoid becoming the centre of unnecessary controversy as much as possible.”
The state-controlled broadcaster CCTV also began promoting a social media hashtag encouraging people to wear Hanfu, according to a report by What’s On Weibo.