Millions oppose Tokyo's pursuit of UN council seat

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 29 March, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 29 March, 2005, 12:00am

Anger over war aggression fuels popularity of online petitions

Millions of mainlanders and overseas Chinese have signed online petitions opposing Japan's bid for a permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council.

The campaign - which has now attracted more than 9 million signatures - was launched by several overseas websites about a week ago and quickly picked up momentum on the mainland with the participation of prominent portals such as Sina, Sohu and Netease.

In his blueprint for reforming the UN announced on March 21, Secretary-General Kofi Annan said the council should 'increase the involvement in decision-making of those who contribute most to the United Nations financially, militarily and diplomatically'.

Japan is one of the UN's largest financial contributors.

But the website of the US-based Alliance for Preserving the Truth of the Sino-Japanese War, one of the initiators of the campaign, said Japan's failure to apologise for its past military aggression meant it did not deserve a permanent seat on the council.

'The international community cannot and must not designate such state a seat on the security council, an organisation charged with safeguarding and maintaining regional and world peace and justice,' a statement on the website says.

Anti-Japan activist Lu Yunfei said he was giving technical support to the websites and was linking the databases to avoid duplicated signatures.

'I expect we'll be able to present a petition with more than 20 million signatures to the UN in August,' Mr Lu said.

Apart from the three prominent mainland portals, hundreds of smaller sites are also soliciting signatures. Some were encouraging mobile phone users to submit their names via text messages.

Sina has collected nearly 4 million signatures, and Sohu has more than 1 million.

Liu Xiaodong , a 24-year-old insurance worker, said he signed the online petition after receiving a link from a friend.

'I don't like Japan,' Mr Liu said. 'There are many knots in our hearts because of historical problems. The granting of [a seat on the council] would make it a bigger threat to China, which I don't want to see.'

Gao Hong , director of the Japanese Studies Institute at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the public reaction could affect the UN vote on the issue.

'It is understandable that Chinese people are opposed to the move given that Japan has not been honest about its historical crimes,' Mr Gao said. 'I think people are also being influenced by media reports on South Korean's anti-Japanese sentiment.

'The petition will have an indirect influence on whether Japan is granted the status. Currently the situation is not clear. I think the Chinese government will take people's call into consideration when deciding how to use its veto right.'

A UN resolution on expanding the council is expected to be discussed in September.