Treated Water Release: China Must Not Leave Unchecked Harassment by Its People

If one-sided harassment from China that ignores scientific evidence is left unchecked by Beijing, it is likely to seriously damage Japan’s friendly feelings toward its neighbor and worsen relations between the two nations. Moves must be made to calm the situation.

Since the release of treated water from the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant of Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, Inc. began Thursday, there has been ongoing harassment of Japan originating from China.

In Fukushima, the city government, hotels and inns, elementary and junior high schools, and restaurants are among those who have received numerous crank calls from phone numbers beginning with China’s country code of “86.” The callers spoke Chinese and were reportedly verbally abusive, with some words in broken Japanese used such as “shorisui” or treated water.

Similarly, an Edogawa Ward facility in Tokyo was inundated with phone calls including comments like “Why are you discharging contaminated water?” The phone calls interfered with the facility’s operations.

On social media in China, posts calling for crank calls to Japan and a boycott of Japanese products are spreading to protest the discharge of treated water.

The victims of these harassing phone calls, including those made to facilities unrelated to the treated water, were targeted probably because their numbers were posted on social media.

Even though the authorities in China strictly control social media, such posts have gone unchecked. In contrast, messages acknowledging the safety of the treated water appear to have been deleted. This is the tacit approval of harassment of Japan and it is highly irresponsible.

In China, stones and eggs were thrown at Japanese schools in Qingdao in Shandong Province and Suzhou in Jiangsu Province, and there were silent calls to a Japanese school in Beijing. The Japanese government must demand that the Chinese side strengthen security and take all possible measures to ensure the safety of Japanese residents in China.

Through the state-controlled media, the authorities in China have been spreading among its public the claim, without any scientific basis, that the treated water is contaminated and should not be released.

This may have been intended to restrain Japan, which is strengthening its ties with the United States on issues such as Taiwan affairs, but few countries are sympathetic to China on the treated water issue.

China’s hard-line, one-sided measure of a blanket ban on imports of marine products from Japan appears to be making Beijing lose sight of resolving the issue.

In China’s relations with Australia, Beijing also resorted to economic coercion, restricting wine imports three years ago in a dispute over the source of the outbreak of the novel coronavirus infection. The sentiment of Australian people toward China worsened and Canberra’s policy toward Beijing toughened in response to this measure, so China should not repeat such an experience.

It is important for the Japanese government to calmly deal with China’s propaganda war and continue to explain the safety of treated water to the international community based on objective data.

(From The Yomiuri Shimbun, Aug. 29, 2023)