Tribute to victims of Rape of Nanking

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 December, 2004, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 13 December, 2004, 12:00am

Dozens of activists attended a memorial service yesterday at Beijing's Marco Polo Bridge - the site of a massive battle between the occupying Japanese army and Chinese forces in the late 1930s - to commemorate the 67th anniversary of the Rape of Nanking.

The official anniversary of the massacre, which claimed the lives of 300,000 Chinese, falls today, when the six-week occupation of the city now known as Nanjing , the Jiangsu capital, started.

Yesterday, the activists mourned in front of the tomb of Kuomintang General Zhao Deng-yu, who sacrificed himself while leading troops into a battle on the bridge, which started on June 7, 1937.

Activist Lu Yunfei said: 'General Zhao is a national hero. We came to mourn him and we'll never forget him or that period.'

Their thoughts then turned to Rape of Nanking author Iris Chang, who committed suicide in California last month.

The activists carried her photograph and two Chinese flags as they made the 15-minute walk from the tomb to the bridge in the southwestern suburbs.

They also explained Chang's story to onlookers, claiming threats to her life by Japanese campaigners brought on the depression that eventually led to her suicide.

Also yesterday, the Nanjing Massacre Survivor Aid Association presented 179 certificates to survivors of the occupation, Xinhua reported.

The curator of the Nanjing Memorial Hall of Compatriots Murdered in the Nanking Massacre, Zhu Chengshan, estimates there are only 400 survivors still alive.

'They are mostly in their 80s and are weak and sick,' he said. 'We set up this association to take care of them and to make sure history does not forget what happened here.'

In the mid-1980s, official statistics showed there were about 1,700 survivors still alive.

On Saturday night, more than 100 people held a candlelit vigil at the memorial hall, and paid their respects to the victims and survivors.