The Militant (logo)  
   Vol. 69/No. 16           April 25, 2005  
Thousands in China, Korea protest
effort to whitewash Tokyo's crimes
(front page)
Thousands mobilized in cities across China April 9-10 to protest the issuing and use of textbooks by Tokyo that whitewash the history of Japanese imperialism’s colonial domination and brutality against China and Korea. The new history books are part of an ideological campaign by Tokyo to paint Nippon nationalism in a positive light as the rulers of Japan are rearming and preparing to use their military might again in the region—largely to face China—as a junior partner to their U.S. ally.

Demonstrations protesting Japanese imperialism were also held in Seoul, south Korea. These included a rally led by the few surviving Korean sex slaves of the Japanese imperial troops during the 1910-45 Japanese occupation of Korea. The estimated 200,000 mainly Chinese and Korean women forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese troops are absent or get barely a mention in the new school texts, where they are referred to as “comfort women.”

The Japanese government is using the campaign as part of pressing to extend the use of its military abroad today. There are 550 Japanese troops serving in Iraq—Japan’s largest military operation abroad since World War II. Tokyo is trying to use its offer of similar military collaboration as a bargaining chip to get a permanent seat on the UN Security Council, a move that is hotly contested by the governments of China and Korea. In China an online campaign claims to have collected more than 25 million signatures opposing Tokyo’s bid for a seat on the Security Council.

Recently, the Japanese government signed defense accords with the U.S. government that explicitly called defense of the Taiwan Straits a “common strategic objective” of Tokyo and Washington. This is an explicit escalation of the aggressive posture of the two imperialist powers towards China. At the same time, Tokyo is working closely with Washington on the deployment of a “missile defense” shield—which would give the U.S. rulers and their allies first-strike nuclear capacity—and other moves to ratchet up the pressure on north Korea.  
Tokyo’s nationalist campaign
To justify their increasingly aggressive posture, Japan’s rulers are waging a campaign to foster nationalism among the population. To succeed they must prettify the history of Japanese imperialism.

During the first half of the 20th century, in their competition with their imperialist rivals in Europe and the United States, the Japanese rulers occupied and sought to colonize Korea, large sections of China, the Philippines, and a large part of South Asia. At its height, the Japanese empire extended throughout the nations of the South China Sea, including territories that today make up the Philippines, Thailand, Burma, Vietnam, and Indonesia.

The Japanese occupation forces were notoriously brutal. In Korea, for example, during the 1910-45 occupation, the Japanese overlords sought to wipe out the Korean language and culture and impose the Shinto religion on the Korean people. They also suppressed in blood all nationalist movements.

The resistance by the Chinese to the Japanese occupation was a struggle of great magnitude and took a tremendous human toll. Some 3 million Chinese soldiers and 9 million Chinese civilians died defending their country during the 1931-1945 invasion by Tokyo. This struggle gave impetus to the national liberation movement that developed into a socialist revolution in China and north Korea following World War II. The demands for a public apology by Tokyo and justice and restitution for the victims, like the women subjected to sex slavery, continue to spark protests in both countries.

Some of the most brutal crimes of Japanese imperialism during that period go almost without mention in the new history textbooks. In 2001, six out of the eight history textbooks mentioned a specific death toll in the 1937 Nanking Massacre in China, where some 100,000 to 300,000 Chinese were killed. Only one of the newly approved texts mentions the death toll, saying the dead “may have numbered as many as 200,000,” according to the International Herald Tribune.  
Sex slavery
Likewise with sex slavery. Only one of the newly approved texts contains a reference to this practice by the Japanese army, compared to three of eight in 2001, and all history textbooks prior to that, the Herald reported. Similarly, only three of the newly approved texts say that Asian laborers taken to Japan were brought “forcibly”—an undisputed historical fact, which was previously acknowledged in school books.

The textbooks also categorically state that the Tokdo islets claimed by both Korea and Japan belong to Japan and were illegally occupied by south Korea. This has provoked outrage in Korea.

The publishers and supporters of the new textbooks openly admit that Japanese imperialism’s crimes are deliberately downplayed or painted over to instill patriotism in Japanese youth. “Great Britain committed war crimes. America too,” said Professor Nobukatsu Fujioka, a defender of the new textbooks, according to the British daily Independent. “My concern is that Japanese children are taught to hate their country. They are taught that only Japan was wrong in the war. Don’t all countries use history to instill pride in students?”

As part of this campaign, the Tokyo metropolitan government has begun punishing teachers who refuse to stand and sing Japan’s national anthem—a symbol of militarism to many in Japan and the rest of Asia. During this spring’s graduation ceremonies, 53 teachers were punished.

A national holiday that was once called “Emperor’s Day” had been changed to “Green Day,” following the 1989 death of Japanese emperor Hirohito. This year the Japanese government is renaming it “Showa Day,” to explicitly commemorate the birthday of Hirohito, who led Japan during its conquest of Asia and is a revered figure in the Japanese rightwing.

Japanese prime minister Junichiro Koizumi has begun making regular visits to the Yasukuni Shrine for Japan’s war dead. The memorial is the burial place for Japanese officers who oversaw some of Tokyo’s worst crimes during its imperial expansion.  
Protests in China, Korea
About 20,000 people gathered at Japan’s embassy and in an electronics district in Beijing April 9 to protest the new textbooks. Demonstrators hurled rocks at the embassy and at Japanese businesses and called for a boycott of Japanese products. Similar mobilizations occurred over that weekend in Chengdu, Guangzhou, and Shenzhen. The protests were the largest such rallies in China since the U.S. bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade during the war in Yugoslavia in 1999.

In Guangzhou, 10,000 protesters marched the following day to the offices of the Japanese consulate-general.

In south Korea, Gil Won Ok, 77, one of the surviving Korean “comfort women” led a protest to the Japanese embassy over the same weekend, denouncing the campaign to whitewash Tokyo’s crimes. “Atone for the past and let me die in peace,” she told the rally.

China’s ambassador to Japan Wang Yi criticized the protests, saying “the government does not agree with extreme action,” according to press reports. Chinese government officials pleaded with protesters to express themselves in a “calm and sane” manner.

While the protests against Japan’s crimes are deeply popular, the Chinese government has moved to clamp down on them for fear that demonstrators may also use the political opening to level criticisms at China’s bureaucratic regime. On April 9, students rallying in front of the Japanese embassy were prevented by the police from moving to Tiananmen Square, where large student-led protests were bloodily suppressed by the Chinese military in 1989. Students have reported moves by the administration at some universities to block them from joining the anti-Tokyo actions.  
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