Ignorance or Double Standard ?
Western media treatment of Japan's grievous atrocities in WWII
By JOSEPH WONG AND THEKLA LIT
Tuesday, May 10, 2005
From Tuesday's Globe and Mail
People in the West are largely unaware of what the Japanese Imperial forces did to civilians and unarmed soldiers in countries Japan occupied between 1931 and 1945. And when discussing Japan's role in the Second World War, too many commentators, including The Globe and Mail editorialists, tend to cloud the issue with speculative views of current Sino-Japanese political tensions, and have missed the point that this is a matter of historical truth, justice and redress.
It does not matter how many times Japanese prime ministers and foreign ministers have apologized to China, Korea, and other victimized countries because there is no national remorse for the unspeakable atrocities committed.
To the afflicted countries, Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's latest apology at last month's Asian-African summit in Jakarta is the same as all previous apologies -- purely personal. It is intended to mollify or, worse, fool the Asian public and win support and admiration from Western media and politicians. Without an act of the Japanese parliament, the Diet, no one's apology is representative of the Japanese government, or of the people of Japan.
In order for a democratic country to express its true remorse, Japan's apology must minimally contain the following actions:
1. It must be based on a law duly enacted by the Japanese Diet, authorizing the prime minister and emperor to make a public apology to all the aggrieved nations;
2. The same enacted law must include an authorization for the government to compensate victims of Japanese aggression and atrocities, and a mechanism for determining the just compensation for the victims;
3. The law must also mandate a faithful collection, documentation, preservation, and distribution of the truths about Japanese aggression in the Asia-Pacific War;
4. It must also include a mandate that the textbooks in Japan reflect this chapter of history in perpetuity;
5. Denials of the Asian holocaust must be outlawed.
To date, the Diet has taken no such action. Mr. Koizumi merely replicated the apology statement issued by prime minister Tomiichi Murayama in 1995, a statement considered strongest among all statements made since the end of the Second World War. However, Mr. Murayama made the personal apology only after he failed to persuade the Diet to enact an apology into law.
Even as Mr. Koizumi was making his apology in Jakarta, 80 members of the Diet, deliberately and defiantly visited the Yasukuni Shrine, where convicted war criminals are deified and where Japanese militarism is blatantly glorified. How would the world react if German parliamentarians paid tribute to Nazi war criminals?
The German parliament passed resolutions to redress Nazi Holocaust victims, outlaw Holocaust denials and compensate victims. Aren't the victims of the Asian holocaust entitled to similar treatment? Are they worthy only of empty words of apology and no redress by the Japanese Diet, even 60 years after the war? Aren't The Globe and Mail and others like it using double standards in this matter of justice?
The Japanese government has, for decades, through its textbook censoring system, been whitewashing the country's wars of aggression and its atrocities. Worse still, as recently as last month, the Japanese government further sanctioned history textbooks that gloss over the atrocities committed. These books glorify Japan's invasion of its neighbouring countries as an act of self-defence against the Western powers and a war of liberation that benefited the Asian people.
We have no doubt that Canadians, if properly informed, will be shocked by the unrepentant and unjust behaviour of Japanese postwar governments, and will not fail to recognize the difference between apology by individual government officials and apology and redress resolutions enacted by the Diet. Only through national remorse can Japan make reconciliation with its war victims and regain trust from the people of its neighbouring countries.
Joseph Wong, a Toronto physician, and Thekla Lit, an activist for Chinese redress, are co-chairs of the Canada Association for Learning and Preserving the History of WWII in Asia.