As the recent argy-bargy between China and Japan about the ‘ownership’ of the Diaoyu/Senkaku islands has been rumbling along I have had questions from friends and family about how I think the Chinese feel about the Japanese, and whether the two nations would go to war over this issue. Obviously I am no expert in Sino-Japanese relations, but I have had many conversations with ordinary Chinese citizens and the anectdotal evidence from these makes me believe that they do not trust Japan – indeed many older Chinese people openly say that they both hate and fear Japan. And it is not difficult to see why.
Over the past months I have become more and more uneasy and indeed quite angry as a result of the actions and recent statements made by the current Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and other prominent Japanese citizens and politicians with regard to Japan’s conduct between 1937 -1945.
It seems that as a nation they have never really acknowledged what they did at that time. It is ignored or minimised and younger generations are not taught about it, school history books have been sanitised – for example they never refer to the Japanese invasion of Korea and China, but say that Japan had to ‘move into Korea and China’. Many young Japanese are of the opinion that their country was the innocent victim of Allied aggression which culminated in the USA nuclear bombs being dropped.
Now it seems that the Japanese government is actively denying that they did anything wrong during WW2, and is painting China as a bellicose aggressor.
NHK – Nippon Hoso Kyokai is the Japanese Broadcasting Organisation, Japan’s equivalent of the BBC . A week or so ago the newly appointed Chairman of NHK gave his first public speech and chose the opportunity to state that the 20,000 or more Korean, Chinese, Malaysian, Filipino and Indonesian women who were taken as sexual slaves for the use of Japanese troops during WW2 – the so-called ‘comfort women‘ – was not an unusual situation, “such women could be found in any nation that was at war..” What the hell does he think he is saying? The USA, Canada, Britain and Australia were not enslaving woman to be raped and abused at will.
This complete denial was followed within a matter of days by one of the 12 governors of NHK, Naoki Hyakuta (who is also a prime ministerial appointee), declaring that the Rape of Nanking never happened and that atrocities were committed by all sides in wars and that there was no need to teach such things to Japanese children. This statement above everything else, is what made me decide that I had to blog about it. Denial is always part of atrocity.
The Nanjing Massacre (also known as the Rape of Nanking) is one of the most appalling atrocities ever committed anywhere, in any war.
In 1937 Nanking (now called Nanjing) was the capital of China. When Japanese troops entered the city in December of that year, they embarked on a six week orgy of terror and brutality that was totally unprecedented. Women and children were raped and killed. Men were beheaded, bayonetted, tortured and burnt or buried alive. Buddhist monks and nuns in the temples and shrines outside the city were killed in the most barbaric ways. Some Japanese officers took part in a contest to see who could be first to kill over 100 men with their swords. Between December 13th -20th 1937 some 200,000 unarmed civilians and POWs were slaughtered, and by the end the death toll was in the region of 360,000. In all, the Japanese slaughtered three times more Chinese in Nanking than the combined number of Japanese who were killed by the nuclear bombs which fell on Nagasaki and Hiroshima in 1945.
There are many ghastly photographs of what happened in Nanking available online, and various eye-witness accounts by European and American missionaries who were there and doing their best to save lives. For a really detailed account of this horrible time the book ‘The Rape of Nanking’ by Iris Chan is extremely comprehensive. I should warn you it makes for harrowing reading.
In the west there would be a huge international outcry if senior German politicians stood up and denied the Holocaust, why then is Japan allowed to get away with trying to whitewash their national history without a similar outcry from all sides?
If we ignore this behaviour there is a chance of future generations not understanding what really happened, and that could lead to history repeating itself. We should all stand up and tell the powers-that-be in Japan that their current attitudes are completely unacceptable and it is time for them to confront the past honestly.