Nanjing genocide and Asia's future

Nanjing genocide and Asia's future

For the first time in its history, China commemorated the Nanjing genocide on Dec 13 as a National Memorial Day.

The mass killings and systematic rapes perpetrated by some Japanese soldiers against civilians and disarmed combatants in Nanjing, then the capital of China, for a period of six weeks or so, starting on Dec 13, 1937, is undoubtedly one of the most brutal chapters in the history of 20th century Asia.

This genocide occurred in the thick of the Japanese invasion of China. Though estimates differ, it is generally accepted that between 140,000 and 300,000 Chinese perished at the hands of the Japanese during those six weeks of incredible moral depravity and unspeakable human cruelty.

The Nanjing genocide is not just recorded in Chinese archives and etched in the collective memory of the Chinese people.

There are numerous well-documented accounts of what happened in Nanjing by Western doctors, missionaries, businessmen, journalists and diplomats who were living there at that time.

Japanese writers and activists have also attempted to tell the truth and some have been campaigning for justice for the people of Nanjing and China for decades.

I had some exposure to some of these individuals when I was a guest lecturer on a Japanese Peace Boat - an NGO committed to the promotion of peace - in February 2005.

The passengers, almost all of whom were Japanese, were deeply concerned about their country's role in Nanjing.

Their concern, I gathered from the organiser of the peace voyage, was a reflection of how a lot of Japanese felt about a dark blot in their history.

It is important for Japanese who are aware of Nanjing to become more vocal and get more organised at this juncture in the nation's politics.

This is because right-wing nationalists are more emboldened now to push for their agenda since the prevailing political climate in Japan appears to favour them.

A number of these elements continue to argue that the genocide never took place!

They have forgotten that two tribunals established after the Second World War, the International Military Tribunal for the Far East and the Nanjing War Crimes Tribunal, had convicted some of the men responsible for the Nanjing genocide of war crimes and put them to death.

And, on Aug 15, 1995, on the 50th anniversary of Japan's surrender at the end of WWII, the then Prime Minister, Tomiichi Muruyama, apologised publicly for Japan's aggression, including the atrocities committed in Nanjing, and for the "great suffering" his country had inflicted upon the people of Asia.

He should have also provided a written apology.

Muruyama's successors have failed to build upon his outstanding initiative. Instead, some of them have hardened their position on Japan's past misdeeds.

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