'Kimono' showdown stokes anti-Japanese prejudice in China

A graduation ceremony at Wuhan University on June 22.

Beijing (CNN)A video of university security guards attacking a man wearing a "kimono" last Sunday has gone viral in China, stirring heated debate online over the country's easily stoked anti-Japanese sentiment.

The widely circulated short clip shows a group of uniformed guards surrounding two young men and stopping them from entering Wuhan University, whose Japanese cherry blossom gardens have become a top tourist draw each spring. One man, clad in a Japanese kimono-style dress, is shown being violently pushed to the ground, while his friend is restrained in a choke-hold by another guard before collapsing.
As the video quickly spread online, local news media picked up the story Monday and interviewed the man in the "kimono," who identified himself as a college student from northeastern China visiting Wuhan to view the city's famous cherry blossoms.
    The man, who declined to be named, told Shangyou News that he was a fan of traditional Chinese culture and was actually wearing "tangzhuang" -- a type of garment that originated during the 7th Century Tang dynasty in ancient China and is believed by many to have provided the inspiration for the kimono, the full-length Japanese robe.
    Acknowledging he may have become agitated after being stopped at the gate for his attire, he insisted that the guards overreacted with physical violence.
    "I'm patriotic and didn't wear a kimono," he was quoted as saying. "I'm Chinese and the guards are also Chinese. Chinese shouldn't beat up fellow Chinese."
    He said that he would think twice about wearing clothes that "may cause misunderstandings" in public in the future, adding that he now just wanted to return home and leave all the controversy behind.
    However, many commentators see the guards' actions at the scene as rooted in the historical animosity between China and Japan, dating back to the early 20th Century during the Japanese imperial army's occupation of China.
    For decades, Japan's wartime atrocities -- such as the 1937 Nanking Massacre that China says saw the killing of some 300,000 soldiers and civilians in six weeks -- have been central to the ruling Chinese Communist Party's program of patriotic education.