Japanese cyclist's bid to volunteer at Chinese rural school rejected

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 11 April, 2013, 11:07am
UPDATED : Thursday, 11 April, 2013, 1:54pm

A globe-trotting Japanese cyclist who famously lost his bike in Wuhan last year is apparently causing trouble again.

Kawahara Keiichiro, who had planned to bike around the world, became one of the most reported on Japanese people in China after his bike was stolen in the central city of Wuhan last year.

Following a blitz of media coverage and weibo chatter, police managed to locate and return the bike three days later - only to be criticised  for ignoring local lost-bike cases while generously helping a foreigner to impress media and leaders.

Having spent the months since the incident travelling in China, Keiichiro said on weibo that he recently arrived in the southern province of Guangxi, after being invited to volunteer at a rural primary school.

Yet upon his arrival, the NGO that had invited him said the school changed their mind and could no longer take him, after the local government objected to the idea.

No specific reason was given. Yet with China and Japan locked in increasingly tense relations over disputes in the East China Sea, it’s no surprise that Keiichiro was less than welcomed by local officials.

“There should not be a national border when it comes to mutual help. After the earthquakes in Sichuan and Tokyo, the locals survived because of the help sent from people from all over the world. It’s not reasonable to discriminate someone because of his nationality,” he said.

“This shouldn’t be decided by politics, but the people,” he added.

Keiichiro also posted photos of children at rural schools. Schoolchildren dressed in dirty clothes are seen lining up for porridge.  In other photos, they were smiling from behind shabby desks in makeshift classrooms.

Keiichiro’s post attracted hundreds of comments and reposts on weibo, where he currently has more than 60,000 followers. 

“Maybe the textbooks they study are filled with hatred for Japan, but in real life, a Japanese person has indeed come to offer them help,” wrote a blogger.

“Some officials we have these days are worse than the Japanese invaders,” wrote another.

This was not the first time China has frustrated the Japanese young man.

He was attacked by thugs in Guiyang in September while raising funds to help earthquake survivors in neighbouring Yunnan province. It happened at a time when waves of anti-Japanese street protests occured across China, with some turning violent. 

After finding out he was Japanese, some of the thugs were heard swearing in Chinese, “Kill him with a knife,” according to media reports.