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Woman Who Died Protecting Mother and Child in Suzhou Anti-Japan Knife Attack Honored by Japanese Embassy in China

Published: July 3, 2024
On June 28, 2024, the Japanese Embassy in China flew its flag at half-mast to express condolences for the passing of Ms Hu Youping, who lost her life defending a Japanese mother and her daughter from a knife-wielding assailant on June 24. The image shows the Embassy's statement and an ID photo of Ms. Hu. (Image: via Vision Times Japan)

In the evening of June 24, a violent incident occurred in Suzhou, eastern China, when an unemployed man apparently driven by anti-Japanese sentiment stabbed a mother and her daughter as they exited a Japanese-run school in the area. 

While the two Japanese survived the attack, 54-year-old Hu Youping, who intervened to save them from the middle-aged assailant, was not so fortunate. After being stopped by Hu, the man, surnamed Zhou, turned his knife on her. She died from her injuries on June 27. 

Internet users, the Suzhou government, and the Japanese Embassy in China have honored Ms. Hu’s sacrifice and bravery. 

“Ms. Hu Youping bravely protected innocent women and children. Her courage and kindness represent the broader Chinese community. We pay our respects to her heroic act and hope she rests in peace,” a statement published in the morning of June 28 on the official social media account of the Japanese Embassy said. 

The Embassy flew its flag at half-mast to express condolences at Hu’s passing. 

Suzhou municipal authorities posthumously awarded Hu the title of “Suzhou Model of Courage for Justice.” 

Some Chinese internet users expressed shame at the actions of the assailant, while others commended the deceased Hu Youping as a “righteous Chinese woman” and “a hero of the people.” 

Anti-Japanese hatred criticized

The stabbing incident sparked anger in Japan, and has prompted discussion about the Chinese Communist Party’s ultranationalist narratives in education and the media, which often demonize Japan and Japanese for the country’s previous invasion of China. 

Before and during World War II, Imperial Japanese forces murdered millions of Chinese in their rampage across east Asia. The CCP, which took over China in the chaos of the postwar era, has often used anti-foreign, including anti-Japanese sentiment, to rally public support. 

Suzhou “is a key location for many Japanese corporations’ operations in China and has a sizeable Japanese expatriate population, as well as Japanese schools and shops,” as described by the South China Morning Post.  

“Behind these kinds of incidents are years of anti-Japanese and anti-US propaganda promulgated by the Chinese government,” Yoichi Shimada, a professor of international relations at Fukui Prefectural University, told This Week in Asia.

“It is no secret that the atmosphere and feelings against Japanese and Americans in China have been steadily getting worse, and I see no other source of that dislike, which sometimes – as in this case – verges on irrational hatred.”

“Given that, it is not really a surprise when eventually someone decides to attack a Japanese person,” he added. 

In response to the June 24 stabbing, the Chinese foreign ministry called the attack an isolated event that could have happened anywhere. 

The Chinese government and tech firms have, however, vowed to crack down on anti-Japanese hate speech in the wake of the stabbings.