Praise just courtesy: Japan's Nanking expert

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 14 April, 2007, 12:00am

Nobukatsu Fujioka gives a little laugh as he dismisses the applause Premier Wen Jiabao received after addressing the Japanese Diet as 'just Japanese courtesy'.

'Politeness is part of our culture,' said the professor of education at Tokyo's Takushoku University.

Politeness does not stop the secretary-general of the Committee for the Examination of the Facts About Nanking and his colleagues bridling at the content of Mr Wen's speech.

'His speech was based on the basic assumption that only China is right and at the very outset he mentioned that Japan initiated the war against China, but history has proven that the Marco Polo Bridge incident was started by the Chinese side,' said Hiromichi Moteki, president of the Sekai Shuppan publishing house and another member of the 13-strong committee.

'On one hand he calls for friendship and amity while at the same time saying in his speech that Japan initiated a war of aggression. It is very contradictory.'

The committee was formally set up last month and grew out of a series of symposiums which attracted professors, historians, writers and politicians from both of the main parties, the right-wing Liberal Democratic Party and the opposition Democratic Party of Japan. It aims to disseminate 'correct knowledge' about the 'Nanking incident' of December 1937, particularly among young Japanese.

The committee believes teachers have misled them about issues such as the Nanking Massacre, Unit 731 - the military biological warfare research unit which experimented on prisoners in the Sino-Japanese war and second world war - and the hundreds of thousands of Asian women forced into sexual slavery for Japan's Imperial Armed Forces in the early decades of the 20th century. To coincide with Mr Wen's visit to Japan, the committee sent a letter requesting responses to questions concerning what it says are discrepancies in the Chinese take on events of nearly 70 years ago.

They asked why Mao Zedong said in his book, On Protracted War, that 'not many were killed'; why massacres were not reported between December 1, 1937, and the following October in 300 press conferences for foreign journalists and diplomats; and why no authentic photos of the massacre have ever been produced as proof. The committee concluded that the Nanking Massacre could not have happened, and that by building a memorial museum in the city and promoting the number of dead as 300,000, the Chinese were 'undermining history'.

'As this year marks the 70th anniversary of the Nanking incident, various organisations inside your country are said to have planned movie productions about the Nanking Massacre, with many now under way,' the letter to Mr Wen stated. 'We perceive these acts as an unbearable humiliation to us, who really hope to be friendly with your country.'

Professor Fujioka said chaos reigned within the walls of the city now called Nanjing as the Japanese army began their attack. Chinese soldiers shot deserters, and a mere 20,000 to 30,000 Chinese soldiers were killed in clashes with the Japanese forces. He claimed 'almost no civilians were killed' and an official Chinese report only identified 26 cases of murder, only one of which was witnessed by a named person. The remainder, he said, were just hearsay.

Professor Fujioka hoped Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe would be firm in stating his opinions on the two countries' shared history when he visits Beijing this year.

The Japanese committee's questions

1 How do you account for the fact Mao Zedong never mentioned the incident?

2 In more than 300 press briefings in 1937 and 1938, why didn't the Kuomintang mention civilian deaths?

3 Why did an official Chinese book say Nanjing's population was 200,000 pre-occupation and 250,000 afterwards?

4 Why does the same book accuse Japanese soldiers of only 26 murders in the city?

5 Why do no authenticated photos exist of the massacre? Can China provide any?

6 If you suspect it occurred, can you objectively examine materials we provide you?