When actions speak louder than words
I REFER to Voon San Lai's letter headlined 'Judge the individuals' (South China Morning Post, September 6) in response to Joyce Wong's earlier letter 'Japan must make sincere apology' (SCM Post, September 1).
Lai has, of course, every right to refuse to accept Ms Wong's sentiment that the 'majority of young people in Asia still feel animosity towards the Japanese'.
I, however, believe that he/she is not blind to the many outraged ex-comfort women of Asia who, since World War II, have been demanding Japanese apology and compensation.
Sentiment is a personal thing, but facts must be respected at all times (including, of course, the very fact that the protesting Asian women are no longer young people). But similar scenes have hardly ever been observed by Lai and others anywhere in Europe against the Germans.
Why? Because the German leaders have apologised penitently for the Nazi atrocities for which the post-war German people are virtually not responsible and, more importantly, because the Germans have paid more than 80 billion deutschmarks (HK$416 billion) in compensation to the European and Jewish victims of their forefathers.
Thus apology and compensation together have, in effect, resulted in what Lai saw as 'a whole-hearted acceptance of all cultures and people' in Europe.
In her letter Ms Wong talked about the significance of apology, but unfortunately she missed out the most important significance.
Remember that the bellicose German militarism was not put to an end when Germany lost World War I - it was satisfactorily eradicated only after the German authorities offered, in all sincerity, their soul-searching apology since Germany's defeat in its 'second office'.
If there is anything to be learnt from this, it is that the significance of a proper apology from Japan is not to 'perpetuate hate' as Lai put it, but to preclude a potential second offence perpetrated by the increasingly resurgent Japanese militarism, and to thereby guarantee future peace for the world.
People all over the world, including Lai and her beloved ones, must not fall victim again to such an horrific second offence.
Without an articulate apology from the Japanese Government, we shall all remain haunted by the future, rather than by the past, and a sincere Japanese apology will carry with it this most needed, forward-looking significance.
The general belief is that the penal system of any country is intended predominantly for the obviation of the criminal's attempt at second offence, so from society's point of view the released felon in Voon San Lai's example has 'done his time' only after he has expressed his apology with a contrite heart.
Like Lai, I judge people by what they do in the present, not by what their progenitors did in the past. Again like this correspondent, I do not blame the Japanese people of today for what their forefathers did.
For these reasons alone, I have never felt uneasy or unacceptable for having worked for many years in a leading Japanese bank in Hong Kong.
In addition to my Japanese superiors and colleagues, my circle of acquaintances also include Japanese students and executive tenants. However, I still endorse unreservedly the righteous cause of an unequivocal apology from the latter.
CARLOS CHAN HOW-KONG North Point