Chinese tourists to Japan spark debate

Updated: 2012-10-24 02:16


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SHANGHAI - A group of Chinese tourists who recently arrived in Japan have aroused controversy online, with some netizens believing the visit is inappropriate at a time when both countries are locked in a sovereignty dispute regarding the Diaoyu Islands.

The trip was organized by Costa Cruises, one of the largest cruise operators in the world, said a company manager surnamed Xu, adding that the schedule for the trip was arranged earlier this year.

Five hundred of the 2,000 people who signed up for the trip canceled right before it began, Xu said.

The remaining 1,500 tourists arrived in the city of Yatsushiro on Saturday.

Although some netizens said the trip indicates that tensions have started to ease between the two countries, others have been critical.

"Japanese from all walks of life have been worried about economic sanctions by China. However, a visit by such a big group will undoubtedly ease their worries," wrote user "fushangzaisongjiang" on Tencent Weibo, a popular microblogging site.

Travel agencies in some Chinese cities have canceled group trips to Japan and are looking for alternatives in the wake of Chinese protests over Japan's illegal "purchase" of part of the Diaoyu Islands.

"The company is considering canceling a cruise to Japan next March if bilateral tensions continue," said Xu.

Chinese air carrier Spring Airlines on Thursday dropped a promotion for flights to and from Japan just two days after launching the promotion following online complaints.

Relations between China and Japan soured after Japan moved to "purchase" part of the Diaoyu Islands in September.

China has insisted that the islands belong to China and have been an inherent part of Chinese territory since ancient times.

"Netizens may be a little too emotional, but we can still feel their anger,"  said He Jianmin, a professor at the Shanghai University of Finance and Economics.

Some netizens said exchanges shouldn't be frozen because of the recent tension.

"The destination choices made by tourists are a private issue that should not be linked to patriotism. Netizens who condemn travelers to Japan are committing online violence," wrote netizen "wojingsinahan" on Sina Weibo, another popular microblogging site.