CHINA / National

Shrine visit challenges justice
Updated: 2006-08-16 06:54

China on Tuesday strongly protested against Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi's latest visit to the Yasukuni Shrine, which honors Japanese war criminals.

Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi visits Tokyo's Yasukuni shrine August 15, 2006. Koizumi paid his respects at Tokyo's controversial Yasukuni shrine for war dead on Tuesday, the anniversary of his country's World War Two surrender, a parting shot sure to enrage neighbours China and South Korea. [Reuters]

The Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a statement expressing "strong protests" against the move that severely harms the people victimized by Japanese militarist aggression and damages the political basis of Sino-Japanese relations.

Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing summoned Japanese Ambassador to China Miyamoto Yuji, lodging strong objections to Koizumi's sixth visit to the shrine.

Li told Miyamoto that Koizumi's repeated visits to the Yasukuni Shrine "challenge international justice" and "trample over the conscience of mankind".

"China strongly requests Japanese leaders to make efforts to remove political barriers and bring the Sino-Japanese ties back on track as soon as possible," Li said.

Relations between the two countries have been chilled by Koizumi's visits to the Yasukuni Shrine, where 2.5 million Japanese war dead, including 14 convicted class A war criminals in World War II, are honored.

Koizumi has visited the Shrine each year since coming to office in 2001. But it is the first time he has made the pilgrimage on the August 15 anniversary of Japan's surrender in World War II.

The China-Japan Friendship Association, a Chinese civil group, issued a written statement on Tuesday denouncing Koizumi's visit.

"His act has severely hurt the feelings of people in China and other Asian countries and we express our utmost indignation and strong protest over his wrong deeds," the statement says.

More than 30 Chinese people gathered outside the Japanese embassy in Beijing on Tuesday morning to protest against Koizumi's shrine visit.

The anger over Koizumi's shrine visit also spread in Nanjing, capital of eastern China's Jiangsu Province, where at least 300,000 Chinese were massacred by Japanese troops in 1937.

She Ziqing, a 74-year-old survivor, raged, "How can he feel no regret for the brutal deeds of the wartime Japanese militarists?" he said.

In Hangzhou, capital of China's Zhejiang Province, survivors of Japan's germ warfare in China were "indignant" over Koizumi's move.

Yang Dafang, whose father died in the germ warfare in 1940, said Koizumi's visits to the shrine not only hurt the feelings of the Chinese victims and their relatives, but also undermined the relations between the two peoples.

During the war, the Japanese army's Unit 731 developed many biological weapons and conducted experiments on humans, causing the deaths of many Chinese people.

Chinese experts labeled Koizumi's visit "a political farce", which they said is certain to have a bad impact on China-Japan relations.

"The visit to the Yasukuni Shrine is a matter concerning the political basis for China-Japan relations and demonstrates Japan's view of its actions during the war," said Liu Jiangyong, an expert at Qinghua University.

Gao Hong, a researcher from Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the successor to Koizumi will find himself in a difficult situation as his shrine visit has further soured Tokyo's ties with China and other Asian neighbors.

"It will be hard for the statesman replacing Koizumi to deal with the issue of the Yasukuni Shrine," said Gao.

Koizumi is set to step down in September. Chief Cabinet Secretary Shinzo Abe, the front-runner to replace Koizumi, has backed Koizumi's pilgrimages and visited the shrine himself on August 15 last year. Media reports say he secretly did so again in April. But he refused to say whether he would go there if he became Japanese prime minister.

In Japan, Koizumi's shrine visit also prompted protests from opposition and coalition parties, politicians and civil groups.

Japan's three opposition parties criticized Koizumi's visit. Yukio Hatoyama, secretary general of the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan said that "the visit was an absurd act which could not be more irresponsible".

Japanese Communist Party leader Kazuo Shii said that Koizumi's actions "exposed his irresponsibility regarding the country's foreign affairs" and the party lodges "a strong protest" toward his actions.

Mizuho Fukushima, head of the Social Democratic Party said that the premier's visit was a mistake. "August 15 should be a day when we share a pledge of no more war. But (the premier) is trying to change the nature of the anniversary into a day of justifying sacrifice for the state," she said.

Public opinion polls show that the Japanese people are divided on the shrine visits.

In a recent opinion poll conducted by Japan's Yomiuri Shimbun newspaper, 49 percent of the respondents are opposed to Koizumi's shrine visit, compared with 43 percent in favor.


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