Anti-Japanese sentiment swells among students

PUBLISHED : Monday, 10 November, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 10 November, 2003, 12:00am

Resentment grows over Tokyo's reaction to victims of mustard gas that was dumped during the second world war

The Japanese government's reaction to leaking chemical weapons dating from the second world war in the northeast has fostered anti-Japanese feelings among the young, according to a survey by the China Youth Daily.

More than 83 per cent of 1,827 young people polled said their impression of Japan worsened when the Japanese government would not use the word 'compensation' in reference to the victims of the mustard gas leak.

The respondents said this showed Japan was still reluctant to admit its army committed crimes during the war.

The Japanese government has promised to pay 300 million yen (HK$21.3 million) to clean up weapons left in Qiqihar.

The controversy over chemical weapons left behind by Japanese troops erupted after the mustard gas leak in Qiqihar, Heilongjiang province, killed one person and injured dozens in August. Resentment and outrage have been expressed on web portals and university website chat rooms since the incident.

'Simple criticism cannot convey our anger. What we can do is to fight back against Japan by boycotting their products,' read part of an article published in a Peking University chat room.

More than 60 students supported the article. Huang Yuhang, an MBA student at Peking University wrote: 'I hate Japan. We should not only stop buying Japanese goods, but also boycott everything related to Japan.'

The China Youth Daily survey was conducted nationwide between September 7 and October 5. Around 70 per cent of respondents were between 19 and 35, and the average age was 28. More than 67 per cent of those polled held university degrees.

According to the survey, 85 per cent thought Japan should make a public apology, in addition to providing monetary compensation to victims. Fewer than 5 per cent thought that 'maintaining Sino-Japanese friendship' was more important than a public apology.

However, another Peking University MBA student, Feng Fei, said: 'We should concentrate on building our strength and boosting China's economic and technological development, rather than complaining. National strength will decide which country will have its say.'

Gao Hong, an expert on Sino-Japanese relations at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said: 'The Qiqihar accident was a tragedy for which Japan was responsible. It is understandable that Chinese young people, out of their love of the motherland, would be unsatisfied by the Japanese government's attitude.

'However, this is only a part of Sino-Japanese relations, which focuses on economic and technological co-operation. Boycotting Japanese goods or any similar emotional reaction will harm China's development in the long run.'

Mr Gao added: 'Youth should study and work hard to keep history from repeating itself.'