Altercation between stranded Chinese tourists and Japanese police at Tokyo airport

Society & Culture

On January 25, video of a physical confrontation between Japanese police officers and frustrated Chinese travelers at a Tokyo airport caught lots of attention on social media.

A flight from Narita International Airport to Shanghai Pudong Airport was scheduled to board at 9:45 pm on January 24, but due to heavy snow in Shanghai, Jetstar Japan, a low-fare Japanese airline, announced a 24-hour delay, which left all 180 passengers stranded at the airport.

Narita International Airport 2

Some Chinese tourists said they saw five Japanese passengers picked up by the airline after the delay was announced. The budget carrier allegedly rejected requests to have Chinese-speaking staff assist the remaining Chinese passengers.

Chinese tourists also said that staff from Jesstar Japan treated them with a “bad attitude,” asking them to collect their own baggage and solve accommodation problems while yelling at them in English, “Get out!”

The dispute boiled over when a Chinese traveler attempted to visit a vending machine in the departure area in the early hours of Thursday morning. When the passenger was stopped by an airline staffer who told him not to walk around, the quarrel escalated into a physical confrontation between the passengers and the airline company’s employees.

One Chinese passenger and two airline staff suffered minor injuries.

Narita International Airport 1

Narita International Airport 3

When Japanese police arrived at the scene, they ignored the Chinese passengers’ requests to have a translator, and arrested a Chinese tourist.

As officers and passengers jostled, the crowd broke into a rendition of the Chinese national anthem.

The Chinese Embassy in Japan soon intervened. After negotiation, Jetstar Japan agreed to send the stranded passengers to a hotel nearby, and to offer meals as compensation.

On Friday morning, all the Chinese passengers — minus the one who was arrested — safely boarded the plane. According to the Chinese Embassy in Japan, the Chinese passenger in custody had access to a lawyer and translator, and the case is now under review.

On Chinese social media, public opinion regarding the news is widely divided. While some internet users say the incident was a result of discrimination and that Jetstar Japan should apologize for its unfair treatment of Chinese passengers, others have commented that that it’s a disgrace that the Chinese passengers made unreasonable demands, since Jetstar Japan is a low-budget carrier. “You should have known what kind of service you would receive when you bought low-fare flight tickets. It’s so embarrassing,” wrote one commenter.