Chinese company cancels travel plans of 10,000 members of staff
BEIJING - The number of Chinese citizens traveling to Japan has declined as an outraged Chinese public has expressed intense displeasure and protested over Japan's illegal detention of a Chinese trawler captain.
The Baojian Company, one of Chinese commodity producers based in Beijing, publicly announced a cancellation of its long prepared plan of staff traveling to Japan, which was in cooperation with China International Travel Service (CITS), one of the biggest travel agencies in China.
According to a statement posted on the company's website, the trip had been planned for more than a year. The 10,000 staff members who had planned to visit Japan in October cancelled "to stand on national dignity", though it would bring a loss of the advanced payment worth of tens of millions of yuan.
"The cancellation has been supported by CITS and airlines," the statement said, promising that the loss will be fully covered by the company.
In Japan, a hotel manager told China's Phoenix TV on Monday that the decision by 560 tourists from the Baojian Company to cancel their reservations with the hotel was distressing, "especially when Japan's economy is still in a downturn."
The number of Chinese tourists in Japan was expected to increase tremendously after the Japanese government relaxed visa restrictions in July. However, it hasn't been the case.
Joseph Tung, the executive director of Travel Industry Council of Hong Kong, told China News Service on Sunday that the number of Hong Kong visitors to Japan has decreased because of the illegal detention of the Chinese captain. Some tourist agencies in Hong Kong said that people's interest in Japan had diminished, Tung added.
Japan has been one of the most popular destinations for Hong Kong visitors. But now, Tung said, "their choices will be affected for sure."
Relations between the two countries soured when a Chinese fishing boat collided with two Japan Coast Guard patrol ships in waters off the Diaoyu Islands on the East China Sea on Sept 7.
The seizure of the Chinese trawler and its crew by the Japan Coast Guard developed into a diplomatic crisis between the two neighbors.
Fourteen Chinese fishermen and the trawler returned home on Sept 13. But the 47-year-old captain Zhan Qixiong was still illegally held by Japan. Japan on Sunday extended the detention of the captain to Sept 29.
Since the incident, "Diaoyu Islands" and "Zhan Qixiong" have become two hot terms in China's Internet community.
At the same time, forums on several major Chinese news portals, such as Sina.com.cn, have been overwhelmed with tens of thousands of messages saying that the Diaoyu Islands have always been an integral part of China.
These messages call for Japan to immediately and unconditionally release Zhan, saying that Chinese fishermen have rights to fish in the waters around the islands.
Peng Guangqian, a senior Beijing-based expert, said the Japanese government has used the incident to attract public attention and ease people's concern over internal issues, such as the weakened economy, Peng said.
"The extension of the Chinese captain's illegal detention is an extremely unwise act of the new Naoto Kan cabinet. When Kan was re-elected on Sept 17, he had great opportunity to reach an appropriate solution. However, the new cabinet missed it," Liu Jiangyong, a senior scholar of Japan studies at Tsinghua University, told China Daily.