Mystery of the missing children

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 08 June, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 08 June, 2005, 12:00am

Interest revived in wartime abduction case in Guangzhou

The recent deterioration of Sino-Japanese ties has shone the spotlight on a little-known chapter of the second world war - the abduction of several thousand Guangdong children by Japanese troops.

The children were sent to Japan in the closing stages of the war, but there is no information on their current whereabouts, although some efforts were made to locate them soon after their disappearance, a Guangzhou historian says.

Guan Lizhen , a historian with the Communist Party History Research Office in Guangdong, said she stumbled on the information in the Guangzhou archives five years ago while conducting research for a book on the Japanese invasion of Guangdong, which started in 1937.

The row between Beijing and Tokyo over Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's visits to the war-linked Yasukuni Shrine and the approval of a history textbook that critics say whitewashes Japan's wartime atrocities has led to revived mainland media interest in Guan's book.

The book states that between May and July 1945 - just before Japan surrendered - troops from the Imperial Army abducted children from areas including Jinghui Street and Xihu Street in Guangzhou's Yuexiu district.

In December 1945, the Guangzhou Bureau of Social Affairs reported the missing children to the Ministry of Social Affairs, and Beijing police were asked to help track them down.

But the police were not able to find the children.

A Japanese diplomat in Guangzhou said he could not comment on the report. Guan said she did not know why the children were abducted as the war drew to a close. There has been speculation that they were taken to help replenish Japan's labour force, which had been depleted by the war.

State media quoted another historian as saying that such a large-scale abduction had gone unnoticed for years because the then Nationalist government was struggling with instability and unable to trace the children.

Additional reporting by Ivan Zhai