Yasukuni Shrine

Petition tries to thwart Tokyo's Olympics bid over war crimes

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 04 July, 2013, 11:13am
UPDATED : Friday, 05 July, 2013, 7:02am

An online petition urging the International Olympics Committee not to select Tokyo - one of the three finalists to host the 2020 Summer Games - has collected more than 24,000 signatures since its creation in March.

The signatures come from all over the world, but the website shows that a majority were submitted by residents from South Korea, whose immigrants in Japan recently saw a spate of racial violence.

The petition also managed to garner signatures from mainland Chinese after it was reported by China’s Global Times this week. It was later reposted by several other media outlets.

The petition reads: “67 years have elapsed since the end of WWII. The Japanese government still has not officially acknowledged and apologised for the massive and inhumane atrocities that the Japanese Imperial Army inflicted on Asia during WWII.” It urges Japan to recognise its war crimes including the Nanking Massacre and forcing hundreds of thousands of women into sexual slavery. 

Japan, which hosted the Summer Games in 1964, is in the running again, competing against Istanbul and Madrid to host the 2020 Olympics. The cities made their presentations to the governing committee in Lusanne, Switzerland, on Wednesday. The decision will be announced in September. 

“In light of the Japanese government and her leaders' continued denial of what happened in Asia during World War II, we thought we must see what else we can do so that Japan will recognise history,” said the creator of the petition, Don Tow, a Chinese American physicist who lives in New Jersey, US.

Among the comments from those who signed the petition, many demanded an apology from Japan.

“It was a huge mistake to let Adolf Hitler host the Olympics in 1936 and disgraced the Games and athletes worldwide. We must not repeat the historical mistake to permit the 'Asian Holocaust' deniers the privilege to host the 2020 Games,” read a comment by "Ignatius Ding" from the US.

The petition also criticised the country’s failure to address the atrocities in its textbooks, and blasted Japanese officials' visits to the controversial Yasukuni Shrine,  which honours war criminals convicted by a post-second world war court. Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe recently defended the right of Japan’s leaders to visit the controversial shrine to war dead, calling the visits "natural". 

Tow is the president and long-time member of the New Jersey Alliance for Learning and Preserving the History of WWII in Asia (NJ-Alpha). He told the South China Morning Post that he had devoted the past eight years of his life educating the public about “the massive and inhumane atrocities committed by the Japanese Imperial Army in Asia”.

NJ-Alpha hosts local events and has been sponsoring American teachers to go on "Asia Study Tours" to China and South Korea in the summer, said Tow. The teachers are then encouraged to write curriculum guides to cover this part of history in their world history courses, he said.

Sandrine Tonge, a media relations manager at International Olympic Committee (IOC), declined to comment on the petition.

“IOC members always balance a range of issues when deciding on a host city for the Games," she said. "All cities bid against a backdrop of national and international issues and members have to weigh each one when making a decision.”