Report on the
International Citizens' Forum on War Crimes & Redress ----
Seeking Peace & Reconciliation for the 21st Century
The International Citizens' Forum (ICF), held in Tokyo on December 10-12, 1999, was organized under the initiative of the Japan Organizing Committee (JOC), representing many groups of concerned Japanese attorneys, scholars, doctors, and activists. The Global Alliance for Preserving the History of WW II in Asia (GA) joined the JOC initiate as the Forum’s co-organizer. Other supporting organizations include World Jewish Congress, Canadian Jewish Congress, and Teachers’ Federations from Hong Kong and Taiwan.
This report summarizes the proceedings of the forum and the related activities before its opening and after the closing session. There were 80 delegates from the United States, Canada, Germany, the Philippines, Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Mainland China, and an attendance of over 1,000 Japanese citizens at the three-day event. Since the report is based on the point of view of the GA delegation, it may have missed significant activities of other delegates and the Japanese participants. For details of the daily program of the forum, interested readers please refer to the Forum Program.
Press Conference (12/9/99)- A press conference was held at the Foreign Correspondents' Club (FCC) in Tokyo on December 9, 1999. The conference, convened by Mr. Roger Schreffler, President of the FCC, attracted a great number of foreign and Japanese news media representatives. Mr. Tsuchiya Koken, JOC Chair, Prof. Yue-him Tam, GA President, and Prof. Lester Tenney, victim representative and other ICF participants spoke at the conference.
Documentary Shows (12/10/99) - In the morning prior to the opening of the forum, local participants from Japan viewed two video documentaries: "The Rape of Nanking" (44 minutes) produced by Mr. Lou Reda in 1999 and "A Secret Buried for 50 Years" (84 minutes) directed by Ms. Nancy Wang. Mr. Reda sent written greetings to the audience and Ms. Wang, who is also the Director of the Taipei Women's Rescue Foundation, gave a moving explanation of how and why she and her colleagues produced the award-winning documentary.
Tour of Yasukuni Shrine (12/10/99) - About 50 overseas ICF participants toured the Yasukuni Shrine, Japan's sacred memorial hall for the war dead including convicted war criminals such as Hideki Tojo. In recent years Japan’s right-wing groups and government leaders have conspicuously paid tribute to its WW II criminals. The ICF participants were astonished to find, among the many exhibits glorifying Japan's wars of aggression, a NEWLY erected statue of a kamikaze pilot exemplifying slavish loyalty to the Japanese Emperor.
Exhibit of Poison Gas Bombs Buried by Japan (12/11/99-12/12/99) - China has discovered lately that there are hundreds of sites where Japan’s Imperial Army buried tons of poison gas bombs. These gas bombs become active due to leaks resulting from decay of protecting shell, thereby making numerous Chinese victims even today, with many suffering extremely painful burns. The exhibit reveals the deadly intent of Imperial Japan's chemical warfare and the unprecedented scope of its intended application as manifest by the vast geographical area of the discovery.
FIRST DAY (12/10/99)
The first day of the conference focused on the current situation in Japan with respect to the lack of accountability and redress for the war crimes. In their opening remarks, Mr. Tsuchiya Koken noted that the world’s attention needs to be focused on Japan to promptly resolve the war crimes redress issue as time is running out for the surviving victims; Dr. Tam called for “proper closure of that chapter of the world history based on an objective understanding and uncorrupted acknowledgment of the truth of that war,” and international cooperation to “prevent recurrence of any crimes against humanity, learn from the past, and seek lasting reconciliation and peace for generations to come”; Professor Tenney stressed the need for a timely closure: no money in the world would repair the damages done to his mental and physical well-beings by his wartime Japanese captors, but a proper apology and meaningful compensation would start the healing process.
Mr. Mark Weintraub, National Chair of Community Relations of the Canadian Jewish Congress, the Canadian affiliate of the World Jewish Congress gave the keynote speech at the opening session. He emphasized the importance of collective memory anchored in both historical detail and meaningful context. In educating people regarding war crimes, Mr. Weintraub noted, it is not enough to just catalog the acts of infamy that can mesmerize those not directly involved. Redress is necessary in order to ensure accountability and justice so that such tragedies will not happen again. The great task is to move all levels of Japanese society to recognize the enormity of the crimes committed and realize their unalienable responsibility for redress so as to ensure genuine reconciliation and a lasting, and just, peace for generations to come.
SECOND DAY (12/11/99)
The second day began with five workshops concerning testimonies of surviving victims and reports by their lawyers and other legal advocates for redress: (1) Nanjing Massacre; (2) Military Sexual Slavery & Sexual Violence Against Women; (3) Slave Labor & POWs; (4) Unit 731 & Germ/Chemical Warfare; and (5) Military Payment Certificates and Looted Properties. The sessions following the workshops focused on the litigation and legislation in Japan and those in the United States.
At the ‘Comfort Women’ workshop, Ms. Kim Yonghi noted that sexual slavery, and rape in general, is a crime committed in war everywhere and the victims should unite in a joint effort to seek redress and prevent its recurrence.
Mr. Yoshitaka Takagi reviewed the litigation of 37 cases in various levels of Japanese courts. Mr. Barry Fisher of Los Angeles presented a timely comparison between the lawsuits against European corporations and the cases filed, or soon to be filed, against Japanese firms, all the defendant firms having engaged in and benefited from slave labor practices during the war.
Assemblyman Mr. Mike Honda who successfully introduced a resolution through the California legislature, AJR27, last August urging the Japanese government to issue ``a clear and unambiguous apology'' for its war crimes and pay reparations to its victims made similar appeal in ICF. In his presentation at the conference, Mr. Honda noted that he asks no more for the victims of Japan’s war atrocities than he did for Japanese Americans interned during WW II and that the apology and reparations ordained in the 1988 U. S. Civil Liberty Act brought about the closure for the injustice of the internment. Mr. Tatsuo Kage of the Greater Vancouver Japanese Canadian Citizens' Association presented a similar case for Japanese Canadians to support the redress movement re the Japanese atrocities, consistent with the redress of the internment of Canadians of Japanese descent during WW II.
THIRD DAY (12/12/99)
The two symposia for the last day of the forum examined various views and ideas as to how to raise public awareness and conscience to prevent recurrence of Japan's militarism and to achieve genuine reconciliation between the perpetrator nation and its victimized neighbors. The speakers, among them Prof. Yoshikazu Sakamoto and Mr. Hitoshi Motoshima brought the discussion to a new climax. They considered the war issues with fresh insights and made valuable proposals from legal, economic and cultural perspectives.
Mr. Hitoshi Motoshima, a liberal democratic mayor of Nagasaki for 15 years, once suggested that Japan's now-deceased emperor, Hirohito, was partially responsible for the war atrocities. For two years, he was harassed by right-wing extremists and ostracized by his liberal-democratic cohorts. On Jan. 18, 1990, a year after Hirohito died, a right-wing fanatic shot him in the back. He nearly bled to death waiting for help. Mr. Motoshima told conference participants that too many Japanese, including the survivors of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, see themselves as victims without recognizing Japan's own responsibility for the war.
Other speakers raised concerns over the resurgence of ultra-nationalism as evidenced by the proliferation of Japan’s right-wing propaganda---as an example, its WW II aggression has been dubbed as the ‘Great East Asia Defense’---and the right-wing move to amend Japan's pacifist Constitution to allow rearmament in order to accommodate its resurgent militarism.
Panel moderator Professor Yoshihisa Yoshida noted that in August 1999, the Japanese government won ratification of bill that make its imperialist rising sun emblem the national flag and its hymn of emperor worship the national anthem for the first time since WW II, as another indication of the revival of ultra-nationalism. Ms Kimiko Kurikara, a former senator from Hiroshima, pointed out that many human rights groups are strongly against this parliamentary resolution.
Mr. Yukio Gibo of Teachers’ Union of Okinawa and other panelist agreed that the then Japanese emperor ought to be held accountable, and denounced the enshrinement of the war criminals in the Yasukuni Shrine. Korean peace activist Mr. Lee Soogap decried the distortion of history and noted that by not teaching its younger generation the truth, the Japanese government commits another serious crime – a sentiment shared by Mr. Albert Ho, Hong Kong lawmaker, and Mr. Greg Smith, a Canadian educator.
Dr. Yue-him Tam informed the conference participants that “a concerted effort will be made to identify those who were responsible for military sexual slavery, when the Women’s International War Crimes Tribunal on Japan’s Military Sexual Slavery will be convened in Tokyo in December 2000”. In a following panel, Mr. Smith, from Canada, also observed that the atrocities of the 20th century must not be repeated in the next century and concerned citizens everywhere must make a joint effort to ensure that our children will inherit a better world for generations to come.
The conference was concluded with the "Tokyo Appeal" read by a Japanese lady, Miss Miura Akiko of the post-war generation. The appeal calls upon the Japanese government to accept wartime responsibility, and to offer an unequivocal official apology and meaningful compensations to its victims. It was adopted by all participants present.
While the forum went well inside the convention hall, groups of Japanese right-wing radicals were outside, unremittingly blasting at the conference organizers and participants. They held big banners which read: "Nanjing Massacre Never Took Place" and "Defense of the Great East Asia Was Not An Aggression" and "USA Should Repent Before Jesus Christ for Hiroshima and Nagasaki". Police was on hand to prevent any violence against the conference organizers and attendees.
Immediately after the concluding session, ICF participants took part in a 90-minute procession walking across town and through the downtown of Tokyo, the popular and crowded Ginza district. The peaceful and high-spirited procession was held to commemorate the victims of the Nanjing Massacre on its 62nd anniversary. The same route was taken by a procession under the direction of the Japanese government to celebrate the fall of Nanjing 62 years ago.
The ICF procession was replete of colorful placards and moving slogans in English, Chinese and Japanese prepared by GA members, such as "Down With Japanese Militarism!", "Defend World Peace!", "Remember Nanjing Massacre!", "No More Denial!", "The International Community Demands Justice!", "Japan, Apologize and Compensate the Victims!", and "Apologize for Nanjing Massacre Now!” There was also an impressive long banner pasted with Japan’s military currency certificates issued during its occupation of Hong Kong now overdue for redemption.
POST-FORUM: DAY ONE (12/13/99)
In the first day after ICF, GA delegates attended three significant meetings. First, they participated in a rally organized by groups in support of Mr. Shiro Azuma who filed an appeal to the Supreme Court of Japan.
Mr. Azuma, 88, was sued by his army colleagues for defamation because he published his wartime diary that detailed many of the atrocious acts during the Nanjing Massacre. He lost his case in both the District Court and the High Court. But he has earned strong support of tens of thousands individuals in Japan, China, United States, and Canada. The GA delegates assured Mr. Azuma of their full support. They also met with leading activists from Osaka, among them Mr. Boyao Lin and Ms. Tamaki Matsuoka, who have been working tirelessly to keep the memory of the Nanjing Massacre alive. (Osaka is Japan’s second largest metropolitan city.)
Second, the GA delegates visited the Japanese Diet and met with Councilor Mr. Shoji Motooka, the leader of the Democratic councilors in the House of Councilors in Japan. The Democratic Party is the second largest party in Japan and the largest in the three-party opposition coalition. A former teacher, Mr. Motooka is a staunch supporter of the redress movement. He has visited Mainland China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong and personally interviewed victims of Japanese atrocities. GA President Dr. Tam thanked him for his support and pledged cooperation with him in the future.
Ms. Myrna Layug-Galvan and another congressional aide from the Philippines also attended the meeting. They reported the upcoming legislation in their parliament demanding war reparation from Japan. Mr. Motooka indicated that, with the support of his party and other coalition members, he will introduce bills and resolutions to resolve the long overdue redress issues.
Third, Ms. Thekla Lit, Mr. Mark Weintraub and other delegates from Canada were invited to meet officials of Canadian Embassy in Tokyo. The delegates expressed their concern to support the redress movement for victims of Japanese atrocities as being grounded on the Canadian tradition holding common humanity and justice in high esteem.
POST-FORUM: DAY TWO (12/14/99)
This was a busy day for GA delegates remaining in Tokyo. First, Prof. Tam and Mr. Tsuchiya Koken presented the Tokyo Appeal to the officials of the Prime Minister's Secretariat and the Cabinet Secretariat. They were joined by Mr. Poyao Lin and Ms. Tamaki Matsuoka from Osaka, Mr. Chengshan Zhu, Director of the Memorial Hall for the Victims of Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders, and Ms. Zhang Xiuying, 86, a surviving victim from Nanjing, who presented the Osaka Appeal adopted by a concurrent International Citizens' Forum held in Osaka on December 10-11, 1999.
Second, GA delegates and representatives from Osaka had a fruitful meeting with Representative Ms. Takako Doi, leader of the Social Democratic Party and former Speaker of the National Diet. Ms. Doi pledged continual support to our cause, in particular regarding the issues of military sexual slavery and forced labor.
Third, Prof. Tam and other GA representatives met Ms. Yayori Matsui, Chairperson of Violence Against Woman in War Network of Japan. Ms. Matsui is well known and influential on women issues worldwide. As director of the powerful Asia-Japan Women's Resource Center, she expressed interest in cooperation with GA in the future.
In addition, as recommended by Ms. Akiko Tsutsui, seven GA delegates went to Yamato City, in the suburbs of Tokyo, to see the anti-war play, "The Reunion" produced by the theatrical group, IMAGINE21, featuring two professional artists, Ms. Kazuko Yokoi and Mr. Yoshiji Watanabe. Since 1993 the play has made over 160 performances at over 140 locations in Japan and also a few performances in China. More than 60,000 people have seen the play. Its story relates the horrors of atrocities committed by the Japanese Army during the war of aggression against China. It brings out the inability of the post-war Japanese society to reflect and face Japan's war responsibility. The play underscores a serious theme in a very dramatic and moving setting. There was sobbing among the spectators. After the performance, the GA delegation was warmly received by members of IMAGINE21 and the citizens' group which had supported this successful performance in Yamato City.
POST-FORUM: DAY THREE (12/15/99)
This was another busy day for the remaining GA delegates in Tokyo. First, Ms. Thekla Lit and Prof. Tam called Prof. Saburo Ienaga to pay their respect over the phone. Prof. Ienaga expressed his gratitude to the support from abroad for his lawsuits against the censorship and distortion of historical facts in history textbooks by the Japanese Government. He also commended on the success of ICF.
Second, representatives from Tokyo ICF, Osaka ICF, Nanjing and GA held a press conference, addressing the issues and concerns raised in both the Tokyo and Osaka ICFs. Ms. Zhang Xiuying, 86, gave a testimony of personal experience as a victim during the Nanjing Massacre.
Third, the representatives of the Tokyo and Osaka ICFs had a formal meeting with officials of Asian Affairs Bureau of the Foreign Ministry. Prof. Tam asserted clearly that until Japan apologizes and compensates for its war crimes committed during WW II, GA and its member organizations will lobby their respective country’s governments NOT to support Japan to become a permanent member of the UN Security Council. In addition, Prof. Tam stressed that Japan must face up squarely with its wartime history and let its younger generations learn the lessons from this dark chapter of its history, in order to secure reconciliation with people of its neighbors and ensure a lasting, and just, peace in the next millennium.
Lastly, Prof. Tam visited the headquarters of the Tokyo Association of Overseas Chinese, and its president commended the work of GA and pledged support to its mission.
In conjunction with the ICF, GA held two board meetings and an open session with all GA participants from the US, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan and other areas.
Immediately after the ICF, representatives of GA & JOC members held a joint meeting to review the ICF proceedings. They reached the consensus that the forum was a great success as a whole, despite some shortcomings. It was agreed that cooperation between GA & JOC should continue.
We would like to express our deep appreciation to the Japan Organizing Committee and other friends in Japan for their combined efforts to make ICF a great success. We would like also to note our indebtedness to the many individuals and organizations from and outside Japan for their encouragement, suggestions and support. Space does not allow mention of each of them by name or elaboration about the joint meetings held on their initiatives before and during the conference, from which we have benefited immensely and with heartfelt gratitude.
(End of Report)