Justin Bieber’s bodyguards provided a wide berth for the teen heartthrob when he visited the typically crowded Great Wall last year, allowing only an occasional fan and infant to get close to the “Baby” singer.
If Mr. Bieber comes this year, the bodyguards might find their jobs have become a lot tougher.
Chinese fans reacted with dismay on Wednesday after the teen heartthrob posted a photo of his visit to Japan’s Yasukuni Shrine – a symbol in China of Japan’s militaristic past and a reminder of the horrors inflicted on Chinese people during World War II by Japanese war criminals. A visit to the shrine in recent months by Japanese Prime Ministry Shinzo Abe intensified tensions already tested by a territorial dispute between Beijing and Tokyo over a group of uninhabited islands in the East China Sea.
Mr. Bieber later apologized on his official Instagram account, saying he wasn’t aware that the shrine was anything other than “a place of prayer.” But by then, everybody from ardent admirers to the suits at China’s Foreign Ministry had called him out.
“As a Chinese person, I can’t stand Justin Bieber’s visit,” wrote one user from the city of Guangzhou on Weibo. The post drew more than 700 likes from other users in less than 30 minutes.
“Let’s boycott a jerk like him,” wrote another angry Weibo user.
Others wrote “no zuo no die,” a Chinese-English hybrid phrase meaning, “if you don’t do something stupid, bad things won’t happen to you.”
Even the Chinese Foreign Ministry seemed to get a dig in.
“I’m not aware of this situation and I don’t know the political opinion of the so-called Canadian famous singer,” said ministry spokesman Qin Gang at a daily press briefing on Wednesday. “But China’s position on the Yasukuni shrine is clear-cut. We are firmly opposed to the Japanese leaders’ visit to the Yasukuni shrine, where World War II second-class criminals are honored.”
Mr. Qin added, “I hope this Canadian singer, after visiting the Yasukuni shrine, can have a clear understanding of Japan’s history of invasion and its history of militarism.”
It’s possible he did. A photo of the Yasukuni shrine posted earlier that day was pulled down from his Instagram account. Later in the day, he posted an apology. “While in Japan I asked my driver to pull over for which I saw a beautiful shrine,” he wrote. “I was mislead [sic] to think the Shrines were only a place of prayer. To anyone I have offended I am extremely sorry. I love you China and I love you Japan.”
Representatives of Yasukuni Shrine and Universal Music Japan, which releases Mr. Bieber’s albums in Japan, declined to comment.
by Yang Jie and Eleanor Warnock