China Says WWII Role is Ignored as Residents Hit Out at 'Fascist' Security

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china-soldiersdrill-sept22015.jpg Chinese soldiers drill at Tiananmen Square a day before a scheduled military parade, Beijing, Sept. 2, 2015.
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China's official media on Wednesday defended a forthcoming military parade marking the 70th anniversary of the Japanese surrender at the end of World War II, as critics hit out at the massive expense and draconian security surrounding the lavish celebrations expected in Beijing on Thursday.

"This is a historic event," the official Xinhua news agency said in a commentary. "For the first time, service men and women from 18 countries will march past the heart of China, to celebrate a shared victory, and remember a part of Oriental history often ignored in the West."

It hit out at suggestions in foreign media outlets that China could be using the display, which is expected to parade goosestepping crack troops and an array of costly military hardware through Beijing's Tiananmen Square on Thursday, to show it is a force to be reckoned with in the Asia-Pacific region.

Instead, Beijing wants to use the parade to remind the world that hundreds of millions of Chinese people were among the dead of World War II, the article said.

"Westerners learn from an early age that millions of Americans and Europeans died during WWII, but the fact that 35 million Chinese were killed or injured as Japan attempted to conquer Asia seems not to have been so widely promulgated," it said.

"The united, disciplined goose steps of China's troops send a strong message to its people—the country's war heroes did not die in vain, China will not be bullied again, and the dream of national rejuvenation is coming true," it said.

"If it strikes some as 'overtly' assertive, this may be because the West still subconsciously expects China to remember its 'place,'" said the article, which is likely to have received political approval at the highest level.

Little attention paid

The article said that the atrocities of the Japanese occupation receive scant attention in global accounts of the conflict, particularly when compared with worldwide education on the Holocaust.

"The casualties of the Oriental battlefield, such as the savage [1937] Rape of Nanking in which 300,000 Chinese were killed, appear to be mostly ignored or, in some extreme cases, even denied," it said, in an apparent reference to right-wing historians in Japan.

China says 300,000 people died as advancing Japanese troops rampaged through Nanjing, while an international military tribunal in 1948 estimated that more than 200,000 Chinese were killed in the attack on unarmed civilians, which included the mass rape and torture of women and children.

Beijing last year applied to have its historical archives on the massacre and the widespread forcing of "comfort women" into prostitution to serve the Japanese military admitted to the UNESCO Memory of the World Register.

Security measures

Authorities in Beijing have shuttered major shopping districts and rounded up petitioners and protesters in the city in the run-up to the parade, and sealed off streets and public parks near the route of the march.

Police have stepped up nationwide security measures including a renewed ban on anonymous SIM cards for mobile phones, security checks on anyone traveling to Beijing and pre-emptive measures against anyone perceived to be a potential trouble-maker, activists and petitioners said.

Hebei petitioner Liu Huigan said his sister and sister-in-law had been detained after being brought home from Beijing, where they went to lodge a complaint with the government, and that his brother is now under house arrest.

He said local people have been banned from burning anything to ensure clear skies for the event.

"They won't let us burn trash to protect the military parade," Liu said. "They want a nice blue sky on Sept. 3 ... something we don't get to see very often."

"The whole population is expected to cooperate, and nobody dares not to; that's a one-party dictatorship for you."

Veterans detained

As Chinese President Xi Jinping handed out medals to World War II veterans in the Great Hall of the People on Wednesday, authorities in the central province of Hubei were holding nine People's Liberation Army (PLA) veterans under criminal detention, a relative said.

According to Xinhua, "honoring veterans is an important part of this year's commemorations," but the wife of one detained former soldier said her husband had been taken away by police in mid-June on public order charges along with eight others, after they petitioned for pensions promised to them by the ruling Chinese Communist Party.

The woman, who asked to remain anonymous, said her husband would likely not qualify for an limited amnesty announced for prisoners, as he hasn't yet been sentenced.

"I read the terms for the 70th anniversary amnesty several times over, and you can get released if you are in prison, even if you have been convicted of a crime, but they won't release people who haven't been convicted of a crime," she said.

She said she had repeatedly requested that her husband be released to attend 70th anniversary celebrations, but that her request was turned down.

Some Chinese residents on Wednesday hit out at the nationwide security measures as overkill.

"They seem to be using fascist methods to commemorate what was a victory over fascism," a resident of the southwestern region of Guangxi surnamed Qi told RFA.

"The controls are very tight. They have even removed birds' nests [from trees], they are so nervous."

"This is worse than in Hitler's day," Qi said. "They are in a state of total panic."

He said the parade should be a cause for celebration, not tighter security.

"This should be a time of happiness for the whole nation ... but everyone is sick to death of it; it's more like a funeral than a party," Qi said.

Retired Shandong University professor Sun Wenguang said the authorities are now using extreme security measures as a default setting for public events.

"They see enemies lurking in every shadow," Sun said. "They are always talking about [China's] self-confidence, but they don't seem to have any."

Sun said all TV entertainment has been pulled off air in the run-up to the parade, to be given over to government-made programming about the war.

"There's no danger in entertainment, but they've banned it," he said. "I think they want everyone to focus on the military parade ... they don't want any distractions from their righteousness, their might and their glory."

Ran Bogong, retired politics professor at Toledo University, said the purpose of the parade is to make Japan sit up and take notice, however.

"The three main criticisms are that they have spent too much money on this; that it's saber-rattling, and that it's aimed at Japan," Ran said.

"I don't think there's much debate about whether a commemoration should be happening. They should commemorate and celebrate, maybe spend a bit of money," he said.

"As for the saber-rattling at Japan, I think the majority of Chinese people aren't against it," he added.

Reported by Yang Jiadai and Qiao Long for RFA's Mandarin Service, and by Hai Nan and Wen Yuqing for the Cantonese Service. Translated and written in English by Luisetta Mudie.


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