Two Chinese tourists were arrested in Berlin over the weekend for making “Heil Hitler” salutes outside the German parliament. They were freed after posting a bail of 500 euros ($593). It’s unclear whether the two men, aged 36 and 49, knew that making that type of Nazi salute in Germany is illegal. But it doesn’t seem the two were trying to hide when they were striking the pose and photographing each other with their mobile phones outside the historic Reichstag building.
Germany has strict laws against hate speech and using symbols linked to Hitler and the Nazis in general, which are mostly used to prosecute members of far-right organizations. The pair will be charged with “using symbols of illegal organizations,” the police said in a statement. It’s unclear whether the two tourists are even still in Germany. A police spokeswoman told the AFP that the men were free to leave the country while the investigation continued and any fine would probably be covered by the bail money.
The fact that the two men made the salutes outside the Reichstag was seen as particularly galling considering that its burning in 1933 was a trigger for the Nazi regime to launch a crack down on Communists and other “enemies of the state.”
The arrest comes as the number of Chinese tourists in Europe has surged in recent years, leading some to complain about the clash of cultures that has sometimes resulted in international incidents. Most notably, in 2013, a Chinese tourist in Egypt discovered a Chinese-language graffiti on the wall of a 3,500-year-old temple in Luxor.
News of this latest arrest quickly made its way to China’s online community, where many expressed support for the actions of Germany’s law enforcement authorities, reports the South China Morning Post. “It’s like holding a [wartime] flag of the Japanese army in front of Tiananmen Square. Go to jail,” a person wrote on the Sina news portal, referencing Japan’s invasion of China in World War II.