An inflammatory blend of sex, war and the Internet have fired up anti-Japanese feeling in China after reports that hundreds of tourists from Tokyo held a two-day orgy with Chinese prostitutes on the eve of the anniversary of the Imperial Army's invasion of Manchuria in 1931.
According to the Communist Party newspaper, the People's Daily, 400 Japanese men were serviced by about 500 Chinese women at the five-star Zhuhai International Convention Center Hotel in Guangdong Province between Sept. 16 and 18.
They are said to have paid between 1,200 and 1,800 yuan each night -- more than double the rate for a single room at the plush hotel.
Police have ordered the closure of the hotel, which denies involvement in the orgy, while they look into the allegations.
"The police detained some suspects. We don't know if they include Japanese tourists," a police spokeswoman for the province of Guangdong said yesterday. "The case is under full investigation."
The Foreign Ministry spokesman dubbed the incident "odious," saying foreigners in China must abide by Chinese laws and urging the Japanese government to enhance education of its people, the official Xinhua news agency reported.
Exactly what happened is unclear. The only witness quoted in the local media told of Japanese men "flirting" with Chinese women in a lift.
Something racier is not inconceivable. But the details appear to matter less than the nationality of the alleged perpetrators and the timing of the incident.
In China, Sept. 18 is remembered as "the day of shame" -- the anniversary of the 1931 Mukden Incident, which led to the Japanese Imperial Army's invasion of Manchuria, the atrocities of the germ warfare unit and the use of Chinese sex slaves.
It is also a time when it is easy to stir up anti-Japanese sentiment. The strength of that feeling has already been made apparent on several occasions this year, most recently after the death of a Chinese laborer who uncovered a Japanese chemical weapon discarded after World War II.
Last month, a million people signed an online petition calling on the government not to pick a Japanese rail company to build the Shanghai to Beijing high-speed rail link.
Media reports of Japanese "sex rites" and "orgies" so close to such a sensitive date sparked outrage, especially on the Internet, where surfers said the "Japanese devils" wanted to celebrate their country's wartime behavior.
"The Japanese are animals. They deliberately selected the date to humiliate the Chinese people," one chatboard contributor wrote, claiming that the tourists had attempted to raise their national flag at the hotel.
Other Web surfers called the scandal a "national shame."
But on the bulletin board People's Daily Web site, a minority criticized the vast majority trying to politicize the case.
"The Zhuhai incident was obviously a matter of certain Japanese acting as private individuals," said a commentator named Wang Kean. "No matter what, nothing shows that the group in Zhuhai had any political intentions."