Social media users in China were quick to celebrate news of the death of former Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe at the hands of an assassin on Friday, with some calling the gunman a “hero” and others calling for celebrations and shopping holidays.
On Friday, a Twitter account belonging to a Chinese Australian artist and critic of the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP) shared screenshots of messages posted on China’s Twitter alternative Weibo and WeChat message boards.
“Chinese nationalists on Weibo have began to celebrate that Japan’s ex PM Abe is shot during campaign today. they call the attacker “hero” and send death wish to Abe,” the account said in one tweet.
“From WeChat it says ‘i hope it is the current Japanese PM （got shot）… and Korean one too,'” the account said, posting another screenshot of conversations.
Abe was a prominent anti-communist whose policies were frequently at odds with China. Abe helped form the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue or “Quad” with the U.S., India and Australia. The Quad heavily focused on countering China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region. Abe also sought to bolster Japan’s military, shifting it away from a force strictly confined to a self-defense role. Xinhua, the official press agency of the Chinese government, called military reforms proposed by Abe in 2014 a “brutal violation” of the spirit of Japan’s pacifist post-World War II constitution.
On Friday, Bloomberg reported the news Abe had been attacked prompted celebrations from many Chinese nationalists. One Weibo post said it would be fitting if Abe lost his life as punishment for Japan’s invasion of China in 1937. That post reportedly received about 210,000 likes.
Another Weibo post, which received more than 150,000 likes in 30 minutes, said “Let the celebrations begin!”
Another Twitter account, which specializes in translating Chinese social media posts, shared a screenshot of several Chinese businesses reacting to news from the China Central Television (CCTV) channel that Abe had shown no signs of life since being shot. In just over an hour’s time, two Chinese water parks, a zoo, a flower farm and a restaurant all announced discounts for the day.
In a Friday press conference after Abe was shot but before his death was confirmed, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Lijian Zhao said, “We are following the updates and hope that former Prime Minister Shinzo Abe will be out of danger and recover soon. We would like to extend sympathies to his family.”
When asked on Friday about comments from Chinese social media users that Abe had “mishandled Japan’s relations with China,” Zhao said, “I am not going to comment on the remarks posted online. I’ve just stated the position of the Chinese government. This unexpected incident should not be linked to China-Japan relations.”
Bloomberg reported that Hu Xijin, the former editor of the Chinese state-run CCP tabloid Global Times, posted on Weibo, “This is the time to put aside political disputes” adding, “I hope there can be more people who understand and join me.”
Jin Canrong, a professor of international relations in Beijing who once said China could invade and take over Taiwan by 2027, said in a Weibo post, “what happened today is a tragedy.”
Even after prominent Chinese figures made some efforts to distance themselves from or even discourage citizens from celebrating Abe’s death, Chinese social media users still maintained their celebratory attitude.
A screenshot from one Weibo user said “Today come to my restaurant have meals or order takeaway you can have 12% off discount Dont ask why I am just happy” next to a photo of a news announcement that Abe had been shot.