Be careful what you do in foreign lands, lest you upset the locals. This is a slogan two Chinese visitors to Berlin should take to heart after being detained by German police for giving the notorious Hitler salute outside the Reichstag building in the city.

Security guards spot Chinese tourists giving a Nazi salute

Security guards spotted the two Chinese tourists on Saturday outside the historic building that houses the German Parliament. A 36-year-old and a 49-year-old were making the notorious (and now illegal) Hitler salute in front of the building while using their cell phones to take photos of each other.

The security guards contacted the Berlin police, who took the tourists into custody.

The two Chinese tourists were released later on Saturday after posting bail of $593 (500 euro) each according to police. They could not face serious charges for the use of symbols of illegal organizations, which could land them with a heavy fine or up to three years behind bars.

Nazi images and symbols banned in Germany

Modern Germany has banned the Nazi party and its imagery and symbols, which can now only be used for educational or historic research. The country does also give allowances to filmmakers making documentaries about World War II, or satirical films about the Nazi regime.

However, when it comes to video games in Germany, Nazi symbols, salutes and swastikas are almost always censored.

The Reichstag building itself is controversial

The Reichstag, outside which the Chinese tourists posed, is also a touchy subject in German history. The building was burned in 1933, with Adolf Hitler and his Nazi regime blaming the Communists, leading to a major crackdown on the party.

However, according to a report by Deutsche Welle, there were theories that the Nazis themselves had set the building ablaze in order to justify restrictions on civil liberties in the country in what would today be called a "false flag" incident.

China’s reaction to their citizens’ behavior

The South China Morning Post reports that news of the tourists’ arrests soon spread through Chinese social media, where the majority of online users said the two men deserved any punishment they get.

One person who commented on the Sina portal made reference to the invasion of China by Japan in WWII, by saying the tourists’ actions were similar to holding a wartime Japanese army flag in Tiananmen Square. That person said the tourists should “go to jail” for their crime.

Other Chinese online users were impressed by the actions of the German police as it showed that Germany wants no association to its Nazi past. However they noted Japan had never apologized to China for the wartime atrocities they committed.

On Weibo, the equivalent of Twitter in China, one user pointed out that most Chinese tourists tend to behave badly in foreign countries, leading the Chinese to be unwelcome in some areas of the world.