At Tea Leaf Nation, Tom Snyder covers the fallout from an incident during last month’s anti-Japanese protests: prominent nationalist Han Deqiang’s slapping of an elderly man for “disrespecting” Mao Zedong. Han is a professor at the Beijing Aeronautical Institute, a co-founder of leftist website Utopia, and a staunch defender of Bo Xilai, whom he has described as “a ray of hope for the Chinese Communist Party“. Snyder focuses on Han’s use of the term hanjian 汉奸 to describe the old man, and describes media and online reactions to the scuffle.
The term can therefore be translated as “a traitor to the Chinese”–both politically and culturally, with the implicit connotation of being a race traitor. It is commonly associated with Chinese collaborators who worked with the Japanese military during the latter’s brutal occupation of China, and was subsequently applied to a wide array of individuals who were persecuted and often killed during the anti-rightist campaigns of the 1950s and the Cultural Revolution. As a result, the term carries with it deeply negative connotations, stemming not only from lingering resentment of the Japanese occupation but from the traumatic experiences of the political purges of the Mao period.
[…] The People’s Daily’s official Weibo account eventually weighed in, encouraging avoidance of the term given the social schisms it could generate:
Recently the term ‘hanjian’ has been thrown around on the Internet. It would seem as if all around us there are concealed supplicants and hidden monsters. This kind of ‘with us or against us’ philosophy can tear apart society and runs counter to prevailing trends. Yet, any phenomenon has its roots. When making biased and narrow-minded representations of different eras and viewpoints, it also ignites resentment against the gap between rich and poor and passive corruption. This word ‘hanjian’ should be abolished, [let’s] turn instead towards the imperative reforms of justice and fairness.
People’s Daily followed up with an editorial urging Han’s arrest, from which the following was translated by John Kennedy at South China Morning Post:
To him, people who hold different views on certain political topics are all “traitors”, and people he sees as “traitors” are to be dealt blows: assaulting “traitors” is worth it, regardless of the legal consequences, and [he] will continue to attack “traitors” on sight, without hesitation. By Han Deqiang’s logic, his views on certain political issues are the absolute truth and must be held by everyone; any divergent opinions are “traitor talk” and must be punished through violence. Where is there logic in that?
Other voices on the far left have spoken up in Han’s defence, echoing his sentiments and vocabulary. Among them is Zhang Hongliang, some of whose Sina Weibo posts Kennedy has also translated. For example, from South China Morning Post:
Compatriots, if we don’t eliminate the traitors among us, a chaotic war is inevitable! The race traitors are making a commotion, wantonly demonising the anti-Japan protests, and the government of Guangdong has arrested “thugs” from the demonstrations, and throughout the country is conspiracy to falsely slander patriotic scholar Han Deqiang, giving Japan the courage it has long sought. Japanese naval ships and jet fighters have already begun dispatching to the Diaoyu Islands, and Japan has given rise to a wave of persecution of Chinese people. The race traitor culture that has inspired our invaders since the First Opium War is now back. The people of China are in danger!
But People’s Daily’s call for Han’s arrest shows the extent to which the tide appears to have turned against China’s hard left, following the fall of Bo Xilai, crackdowns on leftist websites including Utopia and Wen Jiabao’s warnings against a reoccurrence of the Cultural Revolution. One of Utopia’s least favourite “hanjian“, economist Mao Yushi, defended the website after it was temporarily shut down in March, writing on his Sina Weibo account that “although I disagree with the Utopians’ points of view, their right to express them is inalienable. [But] I also hope they will no longer libel people, saying that they’re traitors to China, and urging people to kill them and steal their property.”
At Global Times—itself often accused of nationalist extremism—Shan Renping argued that the neo-Maoist left do not hold a monopoly on belligerence, pointing out this year’s violence at environmental protests in Shifang and Qidong, and an ensuing altercation between leftist and liberal intellectuals in Chaoyang Park. (For more details on the Battle of Chaoyang Park, see Roland Soong’s account at EastSouthWestNorth.)
Many people applauded Wu [Danhong]’s being beaten up. From their perspective, Wu deserved it. Today, there are many people who defend Han’s behavior.
Also several months ago, many netizens applauded violent protests aimed at the Shifang and Qidong governments. And recently, some people have preached that Japanese cars and Japanese stores deserve to be smashed.
Although the supporters of the two sides are deeply opposed, they all show the belligerence of Chinese society.
Maybe we should go back to the basics of social morality to stand against all acts of violence. We should try our best to remove ideological conflict and political debates out of the tribunal on violence, making them find their own battleground at other places, so that we can dig out violence from all kinds of shelters.