HISTORY
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70th anniversary of Japan's WW2 surrender

Cultural exchange could unite mainland China and Taiwan on Japan war history experience, Hong Kong forum participants say

The mainland and Taiwan coming together to write an official account of the second world war is politically unrealistic, HKU forum hears

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 October, 2015, 7:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 08 October, 2015, 6:03am

It is politically unrealistic for the mainland and Taiwan to jointly write an official history of their resistance against Japanese invasion, three academics said at a forum to mark the 70th anniversary of China's liberation from Japan during the second world war.

The event, titled "Going Back to History", was organised by the Hong Kong China Economic Development Association. Held at the University of Hong Kong on Tuesday, the forum drew an audience of more than 200, which included many secondary school pupils.

The three themes of the event were the history of the Tokyo War Crimes Trials, the possibility of cross-strait cooperation in writing the history of Chinese resistance against Japanese invasion, and history education in Taiwan.

READ MORE: Hong Kong marks 70th anniversary of Japan’s surrender with ceremony to honour second world war fighters

One of the speakers, Professor Wang Hsiao-po, a philosophy teacher at Taiwan's Shih Hsin University, said any joint effort to write an official account of resistance against the Japanese would be fraught with difficulty.

"It's already difficult for the Kuomintang and the Communist Party to agree on who played the leading role in resisting against Japan," he said. "If the Democratic Progressive Party came to power tomorrow, it wouldn't even go to the trouble of arguing with the Communist Party."

Wang, a member of political group Alliance for the Reunification of China, served as convenor of a curriculum adjustment task force under Taiwan's education ministry. He was a key figure in spearheading the Taiwanese government's proposed changes to the high school curriculum which turned into a political row earlier this year as opponents and students accused the ministry of promoting a pro-mainland view of Taiwan's history.

He said the political atmosphere in Taiwan had made revisions to history textbooks difficult and there was an absence of government funding to support research on the history of the second world war.

READ MORE: Teachers 'facing interference' to instil patriotism in Hong Kong pupils

"But at the civil level, people can still write history freely," he said.

Professor Xiang Longwan, honorary director of the Centre for Tokyo Trial Studies at Shanghai Jiao Tong University, and Professor Chiu Yu-lok, a historian at the Open University of Hong Kong, shared Wang's view.

Chiu said concerted efforts were still possible at the level of cultural exchange, but politically the likelihood of launching official joint research was slim.

Xiang said some scholars had been advocating combining expertise from the mainland and Taiwan and even from Japan to co-write a history of the second world war, and he hoped the idea would one day materialise.