Yasukuni Shrine, located in Tokyo, Japan, is dedicted to over 2,466,000 Japanese soldiers and servicemen who died fighting on behalf of the Emperor of Japan in the last 150 years. It also houses one of the few Japanese war museums dedicated to World War II.The shrine is at the center of an international controversy by honoring war criminals convicted by a post World War II court including 14 'Class A' war criminals. Japanese politicans, including prime ministers and cabinet members have paid visits to Yasukuni Shrine in recent years which caused criticism and protests from China, Korea, and Taiwan.
Facts speak more eloquently than shrine assumptions
In 'Stick your neck out, America', (June 13) Frank Ching writes that the US should take a principled stand against the Japanese prime minister's visits to the Yasukuni Shrine.
I am assistant press secretary of the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, but these are my own views. His arguments would be persuasive:
If Junichiro Koizumi visited the shrine to honour the Class-A war criminals enshrined there;
If he had refused to acknowledge Japan's militarist past;
If he had not accepted Japan's past wrongdoing; and
If he thought the International Military Tribunal of the Far East was a sham.
So many 'ifs' corresponding to as many assumptions. While these may have their own justification, facts are always more eloquent.
Mr Koizumi has openly stated that he does not visit the shrine for the Class-A war criminals. He has made it clear that he visits to uphold Japan's pledge not to engage in war, a promise it has kept for more than 60 years by not firing a single shot abroad. Indeed, over the years Japan has built a state system that will never allow it to wage a war of aggression. Mr Koizumi has also stated clearly that Japan accepted the results of the tribunal.
All this is available for the world to see on the Japanese Foreign Ministry's website. On what grounds does Ching dismiss such official acknowledgment as false?
Japanese prime ministers have been visiting the Yasukuni Shrine since the co-enshrinement of the Class-A war criminals made headlines in April 1979 without inviting reactions from China. On April 22, 1985, then prime minister Yasuhiro Nakasone enjoyed a jovial lunch with the chairman of the Standing Committee of the Sixth National People's Congress, Peng Zhen , after visiting the shrine that morning. Peng went on to give a speech that night praising the fruits of China's friendship with Japan.
While facts are eloquent, so is logic. Suppose Ching's assumptions were justified. Is one to conclude that the democratic leader of 100 million voters is trying to deceive the rest of the world in broad daylight?
Before nodding affirmatively, Ching should ask himself what he knows about Shintoism. Does he know about the Shintoist dichotomy between filth and purity, as opposed to his seemingly westernised notion of black versus white? Does he know that, in Shintoism, great men and rebels are enshrined alike, not to be praised but to be soothed?
The controversies surrounding the cartoon caricature of the Prophet Mohammed and The Da Vinci Code have taught us the sensitivity of religious matters. This is something Ching will find least attractive to tamper with. Lone self-righteousness will only serve to tear the world apart.
AKIRA CHIBA, Tokyo
A case for the ICAC
With reference to the article 'Turn over a new leaf in the textbook trade', (June 13), I find it hard to believe that the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has so far turned a blind eye to collusion between publishers and schools.
Such unethical practices in the construction industry, in which I earn my living, would have been severely condemned. My former employer, a utility company, limits gifts received to a value of $500 each. Even so, every effort is exercised to reject them politely.
The issue may be considered in two areas: minor changes to syllabuses and textbook selection.
If textbook changes are required by a syllabus, publishers should have to issue supplements showing the changes. These leaflets would cost a fraction of new textbooks.
On the issue of selection, a sealed bid-procurement process should be used based on two main criteria: quality and price. Stakeholders, including representatives of the Education and Manpower Bureau, schools, parents and even pupils, should be involved in choosing, according to various sub-criteria.
Reference could be made to the Architectural Services Department's practices in selecting consultants and contractors.
To save school resources, the Education and Manpower Bureau could consider producing a shortlist of possible choices.
The bureau and the ICAC must take action immediately, before the quality of education deteriorates further and parents are fleeced of their hard-earned money.
H. HIEW, Fanling
Stuck in this muck
After many years in Hong Kong, my family and I decided it was time to move on to somewhere with open space and clean air, settling on New Zealand as the perfect choice.
Imagine my dismay, then, when my expression of interest in immigration as a skilled migrant was rejected on the grounds that my work experience does not count because Hong Kong is not considered a comparable labour market.
I work in a specialised field of civil engineering in which New Zealand has identified a skills shortage.
To add insult to injury, it appears New Zealand does recognise work experience in my field in labour markets similar to that of Hong Kong, although possibly with worse standards of English. These include Singapore, Japan and South Korea.
When I asked the New Zealand immigration service in Hong Kong why the city does not count, I got the useful answer: 'It's a policy matter and we can't provide specific details.'
I am left wondering whether: a) the Hong Kong government is aware that, in the eyes of New Zealand at least, our work experience counts for nothing; and b) whether anyone out there has a plausible reason for the exclusion. Meanwhile, I guess my family and I will be breathing these fumes a while longer.
NAME AND ADDRESS SUPPLIED
Dancing banker overpaid
Recent press coverage on the $120million fee paid by HSBC Private Bank head Mimi Monica Wong to her dance teachers almost beggars belief.
Valuable though such lessons might be, most readers will agree it is absurd to spend the equivalent price of 40 Hong Kong flats on dance tuition. It gives the impression that this is just Monopoly money to the eminent banker.
Which leads me to the pointed question: if this is an indication of her spending power, isn't HSBC paying her far too much?
PAUL SURTEES, Mid-Levels
Rest assured with HSBC
It is with great amusement - and not a little concern - that I read that Mimi Monica Wong, a senior executive of such an august institution as HSBC, has the enviable financial acumen to spend a paltry $120 million on eight years of dance lessons.
We should all sleep soundly in our beds at night, safe in the knowledge that our money deposited in this bank is safely in the hands of people of such calibre. I applaud the bank for its obvious ability to promote talent.
DAVID RUNACRES, Singapore
Rainy day warnings
Why does the Hong Kong Observatory only issue rainstorm warnings hours after it has been pouring from Tin Shui Wai to Aberdeen? If it is supposed to be a warning system, why does it take hours to tell us about pouring rain we can see with our own eyes?
Also, why are these 'warnings' never issued on public holidays or Sundays, even when it pours the whole day? Let's not forget about all those shopkeepers, delivery people and restaurant and hotel workers on these days who might still be exposed to the dangers that this warning system is supposed to alert us to.
A.K. HO, Ngau Tau Kok
The release of radical cleric Abu Bakar Bashir last week after only 26 short months in prison provides a telling insight into 'justice' in Indonesia.
It seems that motivating naive and impressionable young men to kill 202 people in a bombing is a small crime, while carrying 3.7kg of marijuana into Bali is a heinous crime punishable by 20 years' imprisonment.
Indonesia's national motto is 'Bhinneka tunggal ika', which roughly translates into English as 'Unity in diversity'. As is evident from the article 'Bali bombings God's will, says Bashir', (June 16), the cleric is not interested in diversity. Instead he is determined to achieve unity under his own perverse interpretation of Islam and willing to manipulate the naive to execute his murderous methods.
Bhinneka tunggal ika is Javanese. It is a simple and beautiful statement of a rich and diverse culture. It is this culture that will be the ultimate casualty in Mr Bashir's war to turn Java and, ultimately, the rest of Indonesia away from their cultural and historical roots and embrace his own intolerant brand of Islam.
Mr Bashir claims to speak on behalf of God.
May God speak on His own behalf to Mr Bashir, and to the people of Indonesia.
JON BRANCH, Lamma Island