A Vision So Noble

Emotional protests to denial of Nanking Massacre

[What follows is a reprint of an Associated Press story that ran in 2000. -- Daniel Ford]

OSAKA, Japan (AP)--Emotional protests were held throughout Asia on [23 Jan 2000] against a conference calling a wartime massacre of Chinese civilians by Japanese troops "The Biggest Lie of the 20th Century."

The Chinese Foreign Ministry had urged Japan earlier in the week to stop the conference, and ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao read a statement Sunday on national television news saying the event had "harmed the feelings of the Chinese people and interfered with the normal development of China-Japan relations."

But inside the conference, some 300 people packed an auditorium to hear former soldiers and a historian deny the so-called Rape of Nanking, where some historians say the Japanese military killed hundreds of thousands of Chinese civilians.

Another 200 who could not get into the controversial conference, titled "The Verification of the Rape of Nanking: The Biggest Lie of the 20th Century," stood outside.

Roughly 100 protesters, mostly Chinese and Japanese, assembled nearby. Some of them waved banners with slogans such as, "Nanking is an undeniable fact."

Supporters of the speakers heckled protesters, but there was no violence.

Some historians say Japanese imperial soldiers killed as many as 300,000 people during Tokyo's 1937-38 occupation of the Chinese city of Nanking, now called Nanjing. A postwar tribunal in Tokyo said more than 140,000 were killed.

But like many right-wing groups and revisionist academics in Japan, Sunday's keynote speaker said there is no evidence that Japanese soldiers widely killed civilians.

"There was no massacre of civilians at Nanjing," said Shudo Higashinakano, a professor of history at Tokyo's Asia University.

Japan's Foreign Ministry "has said the atrocity is an indisputable fact. I say, that's not the case at all," he said.

Sakae Yoshimoto and Takeharu Ishiwata, two former soldiers stationed in China during the occupation, drew applause when they said other soldiers had lied when describing systematic murder of civilians. Neither man was ever stationed in Nanjing.

In Nanjing, survivors, some of them in tears, gathered to denounce the Osaka meeting, state television reported.

"They say I'm lying. I say I best represent the massacre victims because I still have wounds on my body, wounds on my face, wounds on my legs. Can you deny that?" said Liu Xiuying.

The news broadcast showed people holding lit white candles walking past a stone memorial marked "VICTIMS 300,000." It also showed a museum display of partially unearthed skeletons of massacre victims.

Several dozen veterans and experts also gathered Sunday in the northeastern Chinese city of Shenyang to express their anger over the conference, the state-run Xinhua News Agency reported.

And in Hong Kong, about six activists staged a sit-in outside the Japanese consulate to condemn the event. They tore up a Japanese flag and displayed photos of wartime atrocities.

"I think a lot of Japanese will listen to the right-wing group," said protester Leung Kwok-hung. "They want to cover up the war crimes."

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