Glorifying militarism should be squelched

By Gao Yandong Source:Global Times Published: 2018/2/28 23:47:43

Illustration: Liu Rui/GT

Police in Nanjing, Jiangsu Province, detained two men for posing in front of a site of a fort used during the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1931-45) in Japanese army uniforms recently. The pair's action offended Chinese sensibilities because of the sensitive war history between China and Japan. Similar events took place several times last year. Four men posed in Japanese army uniforms at Shanghai's Sihang Warehouse, a site of an anti-Japanese battle; two men had themselves photographed as Japanese warriors at a Nanjing Massacre site.

China's law does not punish individuals for their personal choices. It is one's personal choice to fancy Japanese culture, but worshipping Japanese militarism is an illegal act that hurts public sensibilities.

Promoting militarism has nothing to do with free speech. Some people believe that posing in costumes is a means of expressing love for Japanese culture. But the freedom of speech, in any country, has its limits and should not breach public interest, just as what American Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once pointed out - freedom of speech doesn't mean the right of "falsely shouting fire in a crowded theater."

The impact of remarks made in public should be seen from the perspective of public order. The detainees' dressing in Japanese army uniforms and posing with simulated weapons have been done openly and are subject to social judgment.

All modern and civilized countries have taboos about speech. For instance, offensive remarks at women and people of color are prohibited in the US. In Germany, promoting Nazism is criminal - anyone who publicly "approves of, denies or downplays" Nazi crimes can be punished by up to five years in prison. Public use of a symbol of any "political party which has been declared unconstitutional by the Federal Constitutional Court" including the swastika, the Nazi salute and several other symbols of the Third Reich is punishable by up to three years in prison. Two Chinese tourists were arrested for giving a "Heil Hitler" salute in front of the Reichstag building in Berlin last year.

Promoting militarism should be forbidden in China. The country has suffered from militarism more than Germany, and so Chinese law should be stricter in banning remarks that promote and glorify militarism and Nazism.

In recent years, militarism has lingered in Japan. China keeps reminding its people of the national humiliation by means of memorial ceremonies. Brazenly posing in Japanese army uniforms deserves to be punished.

According to Chinese law, a man surnamed Tang, who was involved in the case, is suspected of committing a crime. Article 120 of China's criminal law states, "Whoever organizes, leads, and actively participates in a terrorist organization is to be sentenced to not less than three years but not more than 10 years of fixed-term imprisonment; other participants are to be sentenced to not more than three years of fixed-term imprisonment, criminal detention, or control." Tang was found to have shouted slogans considered to promote militarism in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, in 2015. Considering his record, Tang's posing at war ruins in Nanjing this time deserves to be declared criminal.

There is no legal barrier in interpreting militarism as extremism. Militarism is more dangerous for society than terrorism. China's criminal law regulates terrorism and extremism. Thus, there is no ground to tolerate militarism. In modern civilizational discourse, militarism accompanied by invasion and massacre amounts to extremism.

Handling the case as criminal will safeguard the basic values of Chinese society and prevent the nation from being harmed again. Judicial authorities should in their future interpretation clarify that militarism is a means of extremism.

Glorifying and promoting militarism not only harms the feelings of Chinese people but also challenges human civilization. Militarism is a demon that has resulted in saber-rattling. Cracking down upon action that promotes militarism is needed for a better future.

The author is a professor at Zhejiang University Guanghua Law School.

Posted in: VIEWPOINT

blog comments powered by Disqus