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Remembering World War II can help build a better future

By CHANG JUN (China Daily USA)

Updated: 2015-08-05 05:16:00


Last week was an eventful one for Chinese communities in the Bay Area — conferences, social gatherings and performances were in abundance.

The theme of these activities was consistent, the voices united: commemorating the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII and denouncing Japanese right-wing politicians' attempts at denial and whitewashing of Japan's wartime atrocities and wrongdoings against China and its Asian neighbors.

Remembering World War II can help build a better future

At a conference on Saturday sponsored by the Western America Chinese Peaceful Unification and 30 local organizations, consul-general of the Chinese Consulate General in San Francisco Luo Linquan addressed an audience of 300 including WWII veterans, descendants of Chinese soldiers and commanders during the Chinese War against Japanese Aggression, and representatives from China's Hunan province, where the nationalist forces fiercely fought Japanese invaders in six battles and finally forced a Japanese surrender in Zhijiang.

"Today's event is very meaningful," said Luo. "It prompts us to remember our history, remember our heroes and stay vigilant to the revival of militarism in Japan."

China and Japan have been suffering from diplomatic stagnation for years due to rising tensions over the sovereignty of Diaoyu Island after Japan and then Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda unilaterally announced the "nationalization" of the island in 2012.

Japan's current Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, escalated the dispute by supporting the claim and further irritated Beijing by allowing lawmakers from his Liberal Democratic Party to pay tribute at the notorious Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japan's war dead, including 14 Class-A convicted WWII criminals. The shrine is seen as a symbol of Japan's past militarism.

In July 2014, Japan's cabinet lifted the ban on its armed forces fighting overseas, based on a limited re-interpretation of its 70-year-old pacifist constitution, a move some experts described as dangerous.

Wu Youyi, president of the Western America Chinese Peaceful Unification, said although his organization aims at promoting peace and reconciliation between China and Japan, there would never be a foundation for reconciliation without honesty and candor on the part of Japan.

Peace will not come until Japan forthrightly acknowledges this history and apologizes and compensates its victims, otherwise peace between Japan and the Asian neighbors it traumatized during WWII will remain elusive.

"We will never forget that Japan invaders conducted tens of thousands of killings, burnings, rapes and lootings in China from 1931 to 1945," said Wu. "And there are still Japanese politicians talking sheer nonsense and denying Japan's war crimes. It's totally unacceptable."

Meanwhile, the San Francisco Bay Area Coalition to Commemorate the Pacific War, a grassroots organization established to preserve the historical truth of WWII and seek an official apology and monetary compensation for WWII victims and survivors, presented a petition to the mayor and board of supervisors of San Francisco last week.

The petition, disseminated among overseas Chinese through social media, reads: "Our organization … firmly supports the installation of a memorial monument and a set of commemorative statues to honor the defenders of freedom and the victims of the Pacific War (1931-1945) in which 35 million perished and many more millions were enslaved. The commemoration shall remind the general public of the tragic historic past and seek regional and global peace and prosperity through collaboration and mutual respect."

In response to Japanese politicians’ recent remarks, such as "comfort women were well paid and treated reasonably well," the alliance rebuked such claims, labeling them "outright lies and distortion."

The investigations, studies and reports of the war crimes committed by the Imperial Empire of Japan against hundreds of thousands women and young girls during the war have been overwhelmingly solid and conclusive, said a statement issued by the alliance.

"The work on this issue has been done by the UN High Commission on Human Rights, the European Parliament, 27 European nations, the US Congressional Research Service and hundreds of prominent international scholars and historians, among others," the statement continued.

The WWII Pacific War Memorial Hall, the first educational museum of its kind in North America, is to open to the public on August 15. It will feature five permanent exhibitions: the pre-Japanese invasion period from 1931 to 1937; the Chinese people's resistance on their own from 1937 to 1941; the US involvement from 1942 to 1945; the friendship between China and the US during the war; and overseas Chinese people's patriotism.

The museum is intended to be a platform for people, especially youngsters, to connect the present with the past, and together build the world into a better place of peace for the future.

Contact the writer at junechang@chinadailyusa.com.