Police ban protest bid by victims

Agnes Cheung

BEIJING police have refused two female war victims permission to demonstrate outside the Japanese Embassy, saying their demonstration might be manipulated by 'bad elements'.

The Foreign Ministry, meanwhile, demanded Tokyo resolve the comfort women issue as Xinhua (the New China News Agency) lashed out at Japan's failure to apologise for its wartime atrocities.

Zhang Tingqi, one of the protest applicants, said police told her yesterday that, although they understood the war victims' feelings, they could not give approval in case the protest was used to stir up disturbances.

Ms Zhang, 69, and Yin Zhengmei, 66, planned to stage the demonstration with 10 to 20 other war victims outside the embassy in Beijing tomorrow after the Japanese parliament stopped short of making a full apology last week.

They demanded Tokyo apologise for its war aggression in China and atrocities done to the Chinese people.

'Originally I thought it would be something very simple . . . We just wanted to carry out a simple protest outside the embassy,' Ms Zhang said in Beijing.

She said they had yet to decide what to do next.

Ms Yin was reportedly warned against giving an interview with an American television station by police.

It was not clear if Ms Yin had followed police advice, as Ms Zhang said she has not been in contact with her.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Shen Guofang yesterday said the Japanese Government should take a responsible attitude towards history, and 'earnestly and properly' handle the issue of former 'comfort women for Japanese army' with full respect for the feelings and demands of the victims, countries and individuals.

Commenting on Japan's announcement of its intention to establish a peace and goodwill foundation to compensate for the comfort women in Asia, Mr Shen said the issue was one of the shameful crimes committed by the Japanese militarists.

Yesterday, Xinhua strongly attacked Japan, saying the country 'unlike Germany, has never acknowledged, clearly and unambiguously, the atrocities it committed during World War II' and had thereby aroused dismay worldwide.

The criticism, written by commentator Wang Dajun, was Beijing's first direct reaction to the 'no-war resolution' compromise by the Japanese parliament on June 9.

'The ruling three-party coalition lacked sufficient courage to face up to Japan's past,' Xinhua said in reference to a resolution expressing only cautious remorse for wartime atrocities.

Beijing-based war reparation campaigner Tong Zeng yesterday urged Beijing to formally push for an official apology from Tokyo, instead of just asking Japan to reflect on its aggression.

Millions of Chinese died during the Japanese occupation.