Opinion / Op-Ed Contributors

Number of victims in Nanjing Massacre irrefutable

By Zhu Chengshan (China Daily) Updated: 2014-04-04 08:13

When delivering a speech in Berlin on March 28, President Xi Jinping recalled the atrocities the Japanese military committed when it occupied what was then the Chinese capital Nanjing in 1937, saying that the Nanjing Massacre of more than 300,000 people is still fresh in the memory of all Chinese people.

Tokyo lodged a protest with the Chinese government a day later, and Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga expressed regret calling it "extremely unproductive" for the Chinese leader to comment on Japanese history in a third country. He also said that Tokyo did not deny members of the Japanese military had been involved in the killing and looting, but he disputed the number of victims mentioned by the Chinese side because views on the matter vary.

It is a shame that regarding the number of victims in the Nanjing Massacre, some Japanese politicians have repeatedly quoted the opinions of right-wing scholars to whitewash Japan's war crimes. No matter how desperately they have tried to deny it, evidence of the Nanjing Massacre is iron-clad, and the international community has for decades had a definite conclusion on the number of deaths in the massacre.

The number of victims in the Nanjing Massacre is indirectly substantiated by the judgment of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East in 1948, which estimated over 200,000 civilians and war prisoners were murdered in Nanjing during the first six weeks of the Japanese occupation and approximately 20,000 cases of rape occurred in the city during the first month of invasion. While as the verdict stated, the estimate of 200,000 deaths did not include the bodies burned or thrown into the Yangtze River. As Hisao Ohata, a middle-ranking officer of the Japanese army, confessed, the number of such bodies stood at around 150,000. Given that, it is fair to say the death toll in the massacre exceeded 300,000.

The verdict of the Nanjing War Crimes Tribunal in 1947, too, put the number of victims in excess of 300,000. According to the verdict, more than 190,000 Chinese civilians and soldiers were gunned down by the Japanese army in mass executions, and their bodies were burned to destroy the evidence in various parts of the city. This, added to the bodies of around 150,000 victims that were collected and buried by charity groups, brings the death toll estimate to more than 300,000.

The Japanese military in Nanjing burned, buried or otherwise disposed of hundreds of thousands of bodies to destroy evidence of the atrocities it commited. The records of those operations and testimonies of some of those involved are irrefutable evidence for the number of people that died during the savage brutality inflicted on those in the city. According to such records, charity groups buried around 185,000 bodies and individuals about 35,000 out of humanitarian concerns. The puppet government buried about 6,000 to cover up the barbaric acts of the Japanese army and also to prevent plague, while around 150,000 bodies were disposed of by the Japanese military to destroy evidence of their crimes. Taking all these into account there can be no doubt that more than 300,000 people were slaughtered in the infamous massacre.

It is also noteworthy that in Article 11 of the San Francisco Peace Treaty, signed in September 1951, Japan accepted the judgments of the International Military Tribunal for the Far East and of other Allied War Crimes Courts both within and outside Japan. This suggests that Tokyo also accepted the verdicts on the Nanjing Massacre including the fact that more than 300,000 Chinese people were brutally killed by the invading troops.

Japan inflicted untold calamities on the Chinese nation, and a sincere apology to the millions of Chinese victims of Japanese aggression is long overdue. However, instead of self-reflection, some senior government officials in Japan are relentlessly denying the country's war crimes; such an irresponsible attitude will only jeopardize the country's future.

This article is based on a Nanjing Daily interview with Zhu Chengshan, curator of the Nanjing Memorial Hall for Massacre Victims.

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