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Special> Undeniable Japanese Atrocity Archives> Latest News
UPDATED: June 13, 2014
China Defends UNESCO 'Comfort Women' Listing

Chinese historians have defended the country's application to list records of the Nanjing Massacre and Japan's enslaving of wartime prostitutes on UNESCO's Memory of the World Register.

China said on Thursday UNESCO that has accepted its application although Japan accused it of "politicizing the agency" and "unnecessarily playing up a negative legacy from a certain period of time."

The Japanese government lodged a protest and demanded China scrap the plan, with China in turn denouncing this as an "unreasonable" move.

Created in 1997, the register protects global documentary heritage.

Peace & justice

Academics and victims of the War of Resistance Against Japan (1937-1945) have shrugged off opposition from the Japanese government.

"We only discuss academic issues, and won't waste time on Japan's fallacy with a political motivation behind it," said Guo Biqiang, a researcher with the Second Historical Archives of China, which is based in Nanjing, capital city of Jiangsu Province.

According to Guo, China launched the application to avoid similar tragedies between the two countries in the future and to contribute to world peace.

Zhang Sheng, a history professor with Nanjing University, said Japan's protest reflects the fact that it lacks understanding of its responsibilities even seven decades after the war.

"Under such circumstances, the international community should help change its mind and prompt it to be a responsible country," Zhang said, stressing that the application should not be interpreted as a demonstration of hostility toward Japan.

She Ziqing, an 82-year-old survivor of the 1937 Nanjing Massacre, which Chinese historians estimate led to about 300,000 deaths, described the application as "huge, good news."

"It will let the world know more about how Japanese troops rampaged through the city," said She, who volunteers as a guide at the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall.

Revealing the truth is important to console the victims, said Zhao Cailing, a worker with a museum on the history of Japanese soldier's sex slaves, or "comfort women," in Longling County, Yunnan Province.

Zhao recalled that a group of middle school teachers from Japan visited the museum in 2011. "They had little knowledge about comfort women, and were surprised by the pictures and physical evidence they saw."

Feng Weiguang is a nephew of Li Lianchun, a late comfort woman in Longling. "If she [Li] had known this, she would be happy," said Feng.

Powerful evidence

China started preparing for the application in 2009, and the State Archives Administration handed the documents to the Memory of the World secretariat in March this year.

If the process goes smoothly, the application is expected to be approved next year, which marks the 70th anniversary of victory in the World Anti-Fascist War.

Among the documents submitted to UNESCO are 11 sets of archives relating to the Nanjing Massacre. They include film, photographs and texts taken and written between 1937 and 1948, according to Zhu Chengshan, curator of the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall.

"The materials are clear, reliable and authoritative. They form a complete chain of evidence and effectively refute those denying the massacre," Zhu said.

Guo Biqiang said the photos include 16 taken by Japanese soldiers. During the six-week bloodbath, a Japanese officer went to a local photo studio to develop film showing him slashing at Chinese people. Little did he know that an apprentice in the studio secretly developed two sets of the photos and carefully preserved one set.

Prof. Su Zhiliang, in charge of preparation for the "comfort women" listing, explained that the submitted documents include evidence preserved by six archives in the cities of Beijing, Shanghai and Nanjing as well as Liaoning, Jilin and Heilongjiang provinces.

The documents, many produced by the Japanese troops themselves, reveal details of "comfort stations," or military brothels, built across the country by Japan's Kwantung Army and puppet Chinese authorities.

The files show that public funds of the military were used to set up the venues, suggesting conscription of comfort women was official action, according to Su.

He called speculation that the women volunteered to have sex with the soldiers "nonsense." "Captured Japanese officers confessed in their testimonies that they ordered subordinates to abduct women from the streets," he added.

Historians estimate that 200,000 women were forced into sexual slavery by Japanese forces during WWII, most of them from Asian countries invaded by Japan at that time.

Su and his research team on comfort women have been providing financial aid to 24 such women, with an average age of 87, living in Heilongjiang, Shanxi, Hainan, Guangxi and Hubei.

"We visited nearly all of them this year and found one third have been confined to sickbeds," Su said. He started studying the pathetic group in 1992.

Working as sex slaves for the Japanese invaders has also left them with life-long mental torment, in addition to physical harm.

"They would rather be silent. You know, sexual violence is not something one can easily talk about," he said.

(Xinhua News Agency June 13, 2014)

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