A hotel orgy involving nearly 400 Japanese male tourists and 500 Chinese prostitutes has sparked outrage on the mainland.
People were angry both because of the scale of the incident and the sensitive timing - two days before the 72nd anniversary of the start of the Japanese army's occupation of Northeast China in 1931.
"The Japanese are animals. They deliberately selected the date to humiliate the Chinese people," one netizen wrote, citing the fact that the Japanese had attempted to raise their national flag at the hotel but to no avail.
The tourists collectively patronized the prostitutes in a five-star hotel in Zhuhai, South China's Guangdong Province.
Reports of the incident ignited flames of fury across China's major news portals, with many netizens describing the incident as "the shame of the nation".
It was reported that the hotel affiliated to the Zhuhai International Convention Centre was full of prostitutes - from the city and Shenzhen - on the night of September 16.
They were involved in a well orchestrated group activity to serve the Japanese tourists there with a price of 1,200-1,800 yuan (US$145-217) each night. It was the same situation on the following day. The Japanese left on September 18.
Chinese staying at the hotel witnessed the process, during which many Japanese openly flirted with the Chinese women in elevators. News stories did not say why the Chinese failed to report the incident to the police immediately.
The hotel management denied it had anything to do with the sex rites, only saying that they must "serve every client well", and "prostitution is a common phenomenon in star hotels across the country".
But hotel guards checked the purses and other belongings of the prostitutes when they left to make sure they did not take anything away from the Japanese, according to witnesses.
The news was first exposed by New Express Daily News of Guangzhou, and was carried yesterday on major Chinese portals such as sohu.com and the website of the People's Daily, the country's largest official newspaper run by the Communist Party of China.
Messages left by surfers surpassed 10,000 hours after the news was carried by the sohu websites, and increased at about an additional 1,000 each hour.
Many ordinary Chinese harbour deep resentment of Japan's wartime past and its failure to own up to atrocities it committed during its brutal occupation of parts of China from 1931 to 1945. The incident has stoked their anger once again. Many called on Chinese people to stop buying Japanese goods on the Chinese market.
"Where are the police? Where are the government officials who are supposed to crack down on prostitution?" asked another surfer.
An official with the publicity department of the Zhuhai municipal government told China Daily yesterday that the local authorities are "very concerned" about the incident and are organizing relevant departments to investigate. The official, who declined to be named, refused to make further comment "before outcome of the probe is made clear".
The hotel also became the target of people's anger. Surfers asked "anyone with conscience" to call 0756-3329988, the hotel's number, to protest.
Apart from some extremist remarks that "the Japanese and hookers should be killed" and the hotel "blown up", there were rational suggestions on how to deal with the incident.
As prostitution is illegal in China, "we shall use the weapon of law to punish those involved - the Japanese clients, the prostitutes and the organizers", one message read.
Guangzhou police on Friday announced that they have cracked a big cross-border prostitution ring, detaining five suspected leaders and 114 prostitutes.
But 10 further suspects in the case, including some Hong Kong residents, are still at large, said Xia Xiaolu, an official from the Guangdong Provincial Bureau of Public Security.
The gang took women from the mainland into Hong Kong to work as prostitutes, Xia said, adding that because 10 suspects are still at large it is too early to say that the gang has been completely wiped out.
The gang was formerly based in Guangzhou's Huadu District and their involvement in the mainland-Hong Kong prostitution trade has been under investigation since 1998.
They were caught using two-way travel documents to get to Hong Kong, where they worked as prostitutes and returned to the mainland when their forged travel documents expired.
To help fight cross-border crime, senior police officers from Guangdong Province, Hong Kong and Macao special administrative regions held a conference from September 24 to 26 in the city of Foshan in the province to step up co-ordination in cracking down on cross-border and secret society-related crimes.
The officers exchanged views and information on fighting crimes in the three regions and expressed their resolve to get such crimes under control.
Zheng Shaodong, deputy director-general of the Guangdong Provincial Bureau of Public Security, said Guangdong will never be allowed to become a haven for overseas criminals.
Organized crime, secret gangs, drugs, commercial crimes, computer network crimes, forged documents and cross-border prostitution were the major topics of their discussion during the conference.
Despite their different social systems, the three parties all want to ensure stable social order to better serve economic growth, Zheng said.
And police from the three areas will support and co-operate more with their counterparts in dealing with crimes involved into the three regions, Zheng added.
In a campaign titled "Dawn" which ran from September 15 to 24, Guangdong police investigated 13,161 criminal cases, detaining 7,490 suspects. (China Daily)