The conference promoted the lie that the horrific 1937 "Rape of Nanking" never took place.
In December 1937, after weeks of shelling and air raids, Japanese forces overran the Chinese defenses around Nanking, the seat of Chiang Kai-shek's Nationalist government. Over the next few weeks, Japanese soldiers slaughtered as many as 300,000 civilians and soldiers, and looted and burned their homes. Thousands of Chinese women were raped and murdered. The massacre has gone down in history as the Rape of Nanking.
Faced with economic depression and growing competition over markets in Asia, the imperialist government of Japan had expanded its six-year-long occupation of Manchuria into a full-scale invasion of China earlier in 1937. The goal was to turn the country into a colony.
The Japanese capitalist class sought to reserve for themselves the wealth produced by tens of millions of Chinese workers and peasants, while excluding their imperialist rivals in the United States, France, and Britain. Japan's military forces quickly seized a large part of China, and began to govern through terror and repression. The occupation, which lasted until Japan's defeat in World War II in 1945, was widely known for its utter brutality toward the Chinese people. The memory of those years runs deep in China even today, more than half a century later.
"History cannot be denied by anyone. The massacre will never be forgotten," Luo Zhongyang, a witness to the 1937 events, told China Daily. "Even after I die there is still my son."
Estimates of Chinese deaths during the occupation run as high as 19 million. Hundreds of thousands of Chinese were forced to work in Japanese-established factories and farms. Chinese prisoners were subjected to barbaric tortures performed as so-called "medical experiments" while thousands more were simply executed.
A hard-fought war of resistance to the Japanese occupiers and their Chinese collaborators was waged by Chinese workers and peasants, which ultimately led to the victory of the Chinese revolution in 1949.
The reactionary conference in Osaka drew protests from the Chinese government as well. The events "have seriously hurt the Chinese people's feelings and disturbed the normal development of Sino-Japanese relations," said Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhu Bangzao. China called upon the Japanese government to shut the conference down. Japanese antiwar activists picketed outside the Peace Center, carrying banners stating "The past, not forgotten, will serve as a guide for the future."
In recent years the Japanese capitalist rulers have stepped up a campaign to win public support for the use of Japanese military forces to back their imperialist aims throughout Asia. Despite a constitution that formally bars offensive capabilities, Japan boasts the fourth largest armed forces in the world.
While seeking to dispel fears about renewed Japanese militarism, many call for Japan to "share risk with America in defense of common security goals," and point to the Chinese and North Korean workers states as a threat.
Debate over the Rape of Nanking, the campaign for compensation of the so-called "comfort women"--Korean women forced into prostitution for Japanese soldiers during World War II--and the brutality of Japan's occupation of China and Korea has intensified as Japan's rulers prepare to again defend their interests with force. The effort to deny or prettify some of the most terrible atrocities of human history is aimed at obscuring the reality of imperialist war.
Yasuhiko Yoshida's Group to Rectify One-Sided War Exhibitions was a sponsor of the January 25 "Verification of the Rape of Nanking: The Biggest Lie of the 20th Century" conference. He charges that only the "Chinese side" of the story has been told.
Yoshida questioned whether civilians were killed at all in Nanjing. Shudo Higashinakano, a professor at Tokyo's Asia University and a scheduled speaker at the meeting, told reporters, "People think by analogy that because Germans committed a Holocaust, that Japanese must have done something like that too."
In a related development, the Japanese Supreme Court upheld the conviction of Shiro Azuma, a Japanese war veteran and witness to the Nanjing massacre, on charges of tarnishing the reputation of Japanese soldiers named in his diary. Azuma has spoken out widely about what took place.
Last year, rightist forces in Japan produced "Pride, An Instant in a Lifetime," which is a movie covering up the atrocities committed by Japanese forces in China and bolstering the reputation of World War II general Hideki Tojo. A play was performed January 25 denying that the Nanjing massacre had occurred.
Over the past two decades, numerous government officials, including top-ranking cabinet ministers, have helped cover up the true history of Japanese imperialism. Ishihara Shintaro, a leading member of Japan's ruling Liberal Democratic Party and current governor of Tokyo, told Playboy in 1990 that the Nanjing massacre was a "story made up by the Chinese" that has "tarnished the image of Japan."
Fujio Masayuki, minister of education in 1986, said the number of victims at Nanjing was exaggerated, and anyway, it was "just a part of war." He also said that Korea had willingly accepted Japanese colonization and was partly responsible for its own annexation by Japan in 1910.
While these and other ministers ultimately lost their posts in the wake of such comments, Hashimoto Ryutaro, minister in 1995 for international trade and industry, became the country's prime minister despite his public statements that Japan had harbored no aggressive intentions toward China during World War II. Sharp debates over the presentation of the Nanjing massacre in university and school textbooks have taken place for years.
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