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EDITORIAL | China Should Extradite Yasukuni Shrine Desecration Suspects

The Chinese government frowns on the vandalism at Yasukuni Shrine, but admonishing its citizens is not enough. It should send the suspects to Japan.

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A blue tarp covers the part of the pillar at Yasukuni Shrine that was defaced by graffiti. (©Sankei by Kanata Iwasaki)

Recently someone vandalized the stone pillar that stands at the front of Yasukuni Shrine in the Kudan district of Tokyo. Engraved with the shrine's name, the pillar was desecrated by spray painting it with the word "toilet" in English. A video of the incident was later posted on a Chinese website. 

The video in question shows the crime in progress with a man urinating on the pillar and then spraying the offensive graffiti on it in red paint. 

The Public Security Bureau of the Metropolitan Police Department is investigating the incident. Under the circumstances, it is considered a possible case of intentional property damage. The perpetrator of the vandalism is believed to be a Chinese male living in Shanghai. A person of his description departed Japan along with the person filming him after committing the act. 

Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo's Chiyoda Ward on April 21, 2024.(© Sankei by Shinpei Okuhara)

Dedicated to Peace Since the Meiji Era

Yasukuni Shrine is the principal site in Japan for commemorating the war dead and praying for peace. Established in 1869, the second year of the Meiji Restoration, it enshrines the souls of over 2.46 million individuals. Such a horrendous crime against a sacred site is indefensible.

Hopefully, the police will quickly be able to identify the suspects in the case. Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and Foreign Minister Yoko Kamikawa must also express their outrage in the strongest possible terms. Both of them also have a duty to demand that China extradite the suspects to Japan. 

A passerby discovered the graffiti early on the morning of June 1 and reported it to the police. The fact that the video was soon posted suggests that the criminal action was premeditated. 

A scene from a video posted on the Chinese SNS "Little Red Book" shows a man spraying the stone pillar at Yasukuni Shrine (©Kyodo)
The stone pillar at Yasukuni Shrine was painted with graffiti that reads "Toilet" in English (from the Chinese SNS "Little Red Book" via Kyodo)

Reaction in China

It was shocking to see how the video was praised on Chinese social media, with comments such as "beautiful" and "well done." Even for someone critical of Yasukuni Shrine, condoning such a criminal stunt is unforgivable.

Many Chinese are now living in Japan, but the vast majority would never contemplate engaging in such stupid behavior. Why can't the perpetrators of this vile crime and the netizens who praise them realize that such actions tarnish the image of all Chinese?

Regarding this incident, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson commented, "I would like to again remind Chinese nationals overseas to observe local laws and regulations and express their grievances and sentiments in a rational way."

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This statement would indicate that the Chinese government frowns on the vandalism. But such an admonition alone does not settle the affair. 

In this scene posted on Chinese SNS "Little Red Book," a man is filmed urinating on a stone pillar at Yasukuni Shrine (©Kyodo, some parts of the image have been edited)

Extraditing the Suspects

Although Japan and China do not have an extradition treaty, the incident is a serious matter. The Chinese side should cooperate with the investigation by the Japanese authorities. It should furthermore arrest the suspects and send them to Japan.

During the same press conference, the Chinese spokesperson criticized Yasukuni Shrine itself. She called Yasukunii a "spiritual tool and symbol launched by Japanese militarism."

The truth, however, is that worshippers at Yasukuni Shrine pay their respects to the spirits of all those who died in wars in a serene atmosphere as they renew their commitment to peace. 

It is feared that many years of anti-Japan indoctrination may have been what incited the suspects' enmity towards Yasukuni Shrine.

There have been previous incidents at Yasukuni Shrine. Also in those cases, Chinese or South Koreans lit fires, defaced surfaces with graffiti or engaged in similar criminal acts. So that the enshrined war dead may rest in peace, the time has come for the police to tighten security at the shrine. 

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(Read the editorial in Japanese.)

Author: Editorial Board, The Sankei Shimbun

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