The Japanese government has reportedly tried to block China’s effort to apply to UNESCO to list documents relating to the 1937 Nanjing Massacre on the Memory of the World Register.
On Sunday, UNESCO’s International Advisory Committee started to review the documents related to the Nanjing Massacre as well as archives on “comfort women”－those forced to be sex slaves for Japanese troops during World War II. Through the Japanese embassy, the Japanese government has asked China to retract the nomination, according to a report in Asahi Shimbun, a Japanese newspaper.
China ignored repeated pleas from the Japanese government, said the report, adding that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abeand Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida also expressed concerns about the nomination to the UNESCO secretariat.
Guo Biqiang, an official from the Second Historical Archives of China, which is in charge of the application, said that it would have special meaning for China if the documents could be accepted by UNESCO’s Memory of the World Register.
“This year marks the 70th anniversary of the victory of the World Anti-Fascist War, as well as the Chinese People’s War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression,” he said. “It could remind us of remembering the history and cherishing peace.”
In June last year, China announced that it was sending an application to UNESCO to list documents concerning the 1937 Nanjing Massacre and the suffering of “comfort women” as part of the organization’s Memory of the World program.
China submitted the wartime documents to the UNESCO program “to prevent the miserable and dark days from coming back again”, China’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying told a news conference last year.
The documents are firsthand materials that recorded the massacre, and they are of historical importance, Zhu Chengshan, curator of the memorial hall of the victims in Nanjing, said in an earlier report.
The UNESCO’s Memory of the World program, started in 1992, has registered dozens of projects to reflect “documentary heritage”. Documents include Britain’s 13th century Magna Carta, the World War II diary of Jewish Holocaust victim Anne Frank and an annotated copy of Karl Marx’s Das Kapital.
At a news conference on Friday, Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga declined to comment on whether Japan had tried to contact committee members.
Suga said earlier that the nomination has sought to “unnecessarily emphasize a negative legacy from a certain period in the past involving Japan and China.”
The Nanjing Massacre refers to the invasion of Nanjing in East China’s Jiangsu province in 1937, during which Japanese troops killed an estimated 300,000 disarmed soldiers and civilians in a rampage of rape, murder and looting. Based on the findings of the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal, there were approximately 20,000 cases of rape in the city during the first month of the occupation.
According to the nonprofit advocacy group Washington Coalition for Comfort Women Issues, Japan forced about 200,000 women into sex slavery, sending them to “comfort stations” set up throughout East Asia by the Japanese military from 1932 until the end of the war.