Zeng Ying, a 32-year-old Chinese reporter based out of Japan, was set upon by online Chinese nationalists after she was seen giving an emotional response to the news of Shinzo Abe’s assassination in Nara, Japan on July 8.
During the segment, which was streamed live for Chinese state-backed outlet, The Paper, Zeng could be seen audibly crying and shedding tears in response to the death of the former prime minister. She also commended Abe, describing how he had opened the door for more Chinese tourists to visit Japan, and had tried to amend the Japanese constitution to be less politically and militarily dependent on other countries such as the U.S.
On July 19, Zeng published what looked like a suicide note on her Weibo account (China’s Twitter-like social media platform), and the post was then widely shared and circulated online. It was then revealed that the journalist had attempted to take her own life and had been admitted to a hospital.
Another investigative reporter named Li Jifeng confirmed in a Weibo post that Zeng had attempted to kill herself in Japan around 2 p.m. on July 19, and cited sources revealing that Zeng had also been suffering from depression.
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After the segment aired, Chinese nationalists did not take kindly to Zeng’s sympathy for Abe’s death, given the history between the two nations and the former statesman’s political leanings.
Abe was the longest-serving of any Japanese prime minister and became a powerful force in the ruling Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). He is controversially associated with the Nippon Kaigi, a nationalist organization that is known for its denial of Japan’s war crimes committed in China and other countries during World War II. Abe’s grandfather, Kishi Nobusuke, was himself a major war criminal.
However, as Japan’s leader, Abe simultaneously worked to boost Japan’s military forces in response to China’s growing strength, while maintaining friendly and active relations with the largest country in Asia.
“He contributed greatly to the friendship between China and Japan,” Zeng was heard saying during the live stream, unleashing anger from Chinese netizens.
“We don’t see any Japanese reporters crying for Abe. How come a Chinese journalist is so heartbroken?” one commenter said during the live stream — though in fact many Japanese expressed emotional responses to Abe’s death.
Zeng: ‘No terrorist act should be celebrated’
Following the backlash, Zeng apologized on her social media accounts for her “unprofessional behavior,” and admitted that her emotional response was inappropriate for a public platform. She also apologized for “hurting everyone’s feelings.”
At the same time, she said that she would continue to try and be “a kind and integrated person,” and pray for peace between China and Japan.
“No terrorist act should be celebrated,” she said.
This did not mollify her detractors, who continued to pile on abuse. Some jeered at her even after her suicide attempt was reported, with one comment suggesting that as a “Japan-lover” she could commit hara-kiri “or else it wouldn’t be authentic.”
Hara-kiri, properly known as seppuku, refers to a Japanese ritual whereby a person commits suicide by disemboweling themselves with a sword. The practice was formerly used by samurais as an honorable alternative to disgrace or execution.
While the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) played little constructive role in China’s defense against the Japanese invasion in World War II (China was then run by the Nationalist republican government), the authorities have in recent generations played up the animosity between the two major Asian nations, leading to an ultra-nationalist online subculture feeding on hatred of everything Japanese.
If you, or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please know that help is available. Dial 988 to reach the Suicide and Prevention hotline available 24/7.