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Date Posted: 10:34 10/20/2003

Sex crimes and national indignation

Most things can be forgiven, unless they involve the Japanese

NOT SO very long ago, Running Dog was again on the island of Hainan, or more specifically, the southern resort city of Sanya - the pervert's semi-tropical demi-paradise - loping from the beach in a bid to escape the legions of brusque northeasterners offering shellfish first and hookers second. 'They can do anything,' they would say, referring to the girls rather than the shellfish. 'Dinner. Swimming. Sauna. Bed. Anything!'

Running Dog, panting, soon reached a small bar less than 200m away from the Holiday Inn but half-concealed by a row of fake potted palms and a courtyard filled with weeds and concrete ruins. With a tasteful neon sign depicting a shapely woman with her arse stuck fast in a champagne glass, the bar was hardly the place you'd expect to find five-star tourists. Another northeasterner soon emerged, with the familiar satyric glint, wondering if we'd ever tried the luxurious spa and jacuzzi services in the vast and opulent hotel up the road, and whether we wanted any of the several bored-looking young women standing beside him to accompany us.

It was nine in the evening and the bar owners were still renovating the place. When Running Dog asked why they were constructing an entire second storey on the roof of this cheap prefab pub, the boss said that they were expecting 200 Russian businessmen to turn up on the following day, and that they had to provide the location, the drinks, and of course the loose women, some of whom were already hovering around.

I didn't get to see what happened when the Russians arrived, but the event came to mind after hearing of the scandal involving hundreds of Japanese tourists in the Orgy of Zhuhai, yet another sex story given undue attention not just by the foreign press, but by the locals too, in an understandable fit of national indignation. However, rather than being adjudged to be a typical (if unsavoury) sexual adventure on the part of a large group of male tourists, it was transformed – via the dizzying rhetoric of Sino-Japanese resentment – into a grotesque and malicious national insult, the latest in a long litany that includes the recent discovery of poison gas in Qiqihar, the voyage of right-wing Japanese extremists to disputed territories in the China Sea, and the insistence of many of Japan's leaders to visit the Yasukuni shrine, which honours at least fourteen war criminals.

The timing of the orgy was, of course, unfortunate, two days before the anniversary of the Japanese invasion in 1931, a date that remains prominent on China's busy calendar of national grievances. The scale was also astonishing. 400 Japanese men had apparently gathered together 500 local prostitutes in a five star hotel. The tourists were staying in the International Conference Centre Hotel in Zhuhai, and on the day in question, September 16, used well-established hotel channels – most of which should be familiar to anyone who has stayed in China - to procure women.

China's lively sex industry is well-known, but with the Japanese involved, the reaction has been especially fierce. 'The Japanese are animals,' said one correspondent, quoted in the People's Daily. 'They deliberately selected the date to humiliate the Chinese people.' One even went as far as to say that 'the Japanese and hookers should be killed' and the hotel 'blown up'.

It doesn't quite do to say that this is somehow typical of the brutal Japanese character when you consider - whatever you may think of it - that this sort of thing probably happens all the time, usually without the brouhaha, and admittedly, usually on a smaller scale. Passions are, however, still raw. When those Russians visited Hainan at New Year, Running Dog heard no one refer to the Sino-Russian War or the border skirmishes during the Cultural Revolution.

An additional point. Why did it take at least two weeks before the details were revealed? Is it possible that the authorities sought to wait until the offenders had returned to Japan, thus avoiding an even more serious diplomatic incident, and also ensuring that all the earnings could be squirrelled away?

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