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2014.03.04

Why Use Real Human Bones for Propaganda?

JBPress on February 28, 2014

  • Kunihiko Miyake
  • Research Director
    Kunihiko Miyake
  • [Expertise]
    Foreign Affairs and National Security

The People's Republic of China has been stepping up its massive yet self-righteous propaganda campaign against Japan over the "history issues" in East Asia. However, although a recent Reuters article from Nanjing shows how desperately China is trying to demonize Japan in the city, former capital of the Republic of China, their political maneuvers don't seem to be as successful as they would wish.

According to the Reuters report, China organized a "guided visit to the site of the 1937 Nanjing massacre, holding up proof to refute doubts by some in Japan about the extent of the atrocity or even that it happened at all." Wait a minute, I have visited the memorial hall in Nanjing twice before and this requires some clarification.

This column is not to deny the facts. On the contrary, the silent majority of Japanese know very well that the tragedy did happen. During a war against the Guomindang's Republic of China government, at Nanjing in 1937 Japanese soldiers killed many Chinese civilians as well as Guomindang Army soldiers in civilian clothes, not in military uniform.

All Japanese born after 1945 have been taught so in school. They also know that there is a very small minority of Japanese who deny it. In addition, another minority of Japanese wonder about the objectivity of some Chinese claims that the real number of killed in Nanjing was almost three million, far more than the 300,000 number which has been officially claimed!

For ordinary Japanese, however, killing is killing. It doesn't change the nature of the incident, whether the big number of victims is 300,000, 142,000 or 30,000. The damage and pain were done, regardless of the number of those who suffered. That's why Japanese Prime Ministers including Mr. Shinzo Abe have repeatedly spoken in Japan's parliament on history issues.

Abe was quoted by Reuters as saying that "As I've said before, in the past many nations, especially those in Asia, suffered great damage and pain due to our nation. Our government recognizes this, as have the governments that have gone before, and will continue this stance." This of course represents the sincere sentiment of the silent majority of Japanese since 1945.

China, however, will forever continue to cast doubt on Japan's sincerity. On this particular point, even the most pro-China groups among the ordinary Japanese are puzzled about why China is so determined to sustain these memories of the past. Many in Tokyo wonder if it is only because the memories are an integral part of the legitimacy of the Communist Party's rule in China since 1949.

The Reuters article went on to say that "Chinese officials reminded foreign reporters of Japan's aggression, showing them skeletons of victims in a memorial hall." Oh, I remember the skeletons very well. They were half buried in the display area at the center of the hall in 2002 when I first visited there. They were moved to a new, much larger display area by 2012.

Reuters quoted a Chinese official as saying "Archives are proof of the facts, recordings of the truth are the most forceful form of proof." In a similar tour, I was told the same in 2002 but I was truly shocked when I learned that these skeletons were real human beings! I asked a high-level hall official twice whether those were replicas. The answers were both negative.

I immediately paused, stood straight and bowed in front of those human bones and started praying with my hands together in front of my chest. Taken by surprise, the Chinese official and his interpreter stared at me during my moment of silence. Apparently, they didn't comprehend why I did this. When I asked him whether he prayed every time he saw the skeletons, he simply said "Why?"

At the end of the tour, I suggested to him that they replace those skeletons with replicas. I said they don't have to use real human bones to prove the facts. This is not the way the humans treat their fellow's remains. They should be buried in peace and most importantly be remembered. Although he promised to consider it, the human skeletons were still there in 2012 when I went back.

I hope what the foreign reporters saw there last week were replicas and not humans. Were the reporters told that the skeletons were real? If so, did they take a moment of silence to pray? If the memorial hall aims to remember the atrocity of the Japanese, the skeletons must be dealt with in a most humane manner.

No Holocaust Museums need to display real corpses. Human bones should not be used for propaganda. As long as the Nanjing memorial hall displays real human remains, it only proves that China's propaganda against wartime atrocity has no ethical basis. China's communists must learn how to pay respect to those who died unwillingly in wars.

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