Japanese Olympic athletes targeted for online abuse after beating Chinese rivals

If you look at the Olympic medal count for gold medals at this moment, China is leading with 19 medals and Japan is in second place with 17. The US is currently in third place with 14 gold medals, though the US has 41 medals overall which is one more than China at 40. But the tight competition for medals and prestige has really set off some Chinese nationalists who get angry any time a Japanese athlete wins.

For instance, there was a big explosion of outrage on social media this week when Japan’s Daiki Hashimoto beat China’s Xiao Ruoteng in the men’s gymnastics final. Soon there were accusations that judges were unfairly favoring the host country.

The anger, first set off on Chinese social media, soon spilled over to platforms typically censored in China. Chinese nationalist trolls circumvented the Great Firewall and descended on Hashimoto’s Instagram account, inundating his feed with angry comments and tagging him in insulting posts.

Many called Hashimoto Japan’s “national humiliation,” while others accused him of stealing China’s gold medal. Some even tagged him in photos of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki.

Some of the accounts attacking Hashimoto appeared to be created specially for this purpose, with their entire feeds filled with posts targeting the Japanese gymnast.

Part of the Chinese backlash was the claim that he had received an unfair score on the vault. In response, the International Gymnastics Federation released a detailed statement on the vault scoring which concluded “the 14.7 score obtained by Hashimoto on this apparatus is correct in regards to the Code of Points, and so is the final ranking.”

It’s a very nice way of telling the Chinese critics to pound sand. Hashimoto himself, who is only 19, released a statement saying, “The Tokyo Olympics is not over yet…I do hope there will be less smear comments and more praises for the athletes.”

But Hashimoto wasn’t the only target of angry Chinese people on social media. On Monday, a Japanese duo won the doubles table tennis competition. As this tweet points out, this is a competition the Chinese have completely dominated for a long time:

So the reaction to Japan winning gold this year was outrage and abuse:

On Wednesday, Mizutani said on Twitter that he had received a torrent of messages attacking him, without directly mentioning China.

“Got tons of DM from a country telling me to ‘Go to hell! P*ss off!’, but I’m totally OK as I’m used to such comments. I’m just happy that I got the whole word excited. All messages from Japanese are cheering me, thank you!” he wrote in the tweet, which was later deleted.

Ito, who has an account on Weibo, China’s heavily censored version of Twitter, had to shut down her feed due to an onslaught of hate comments. She was also attacked on Instagram, where fans have organized themselves to support her against the abuse, leaving encouraging comments and tagging her in positive posts to drown out hate messages.

Obviously there’s nothing wrong with rooting for your nation’s athletes but Chinese citizens apparently think it’s okay to target the winning athletes from other countries for abuse. It seems many in China could use a lesson in sportsmanship.