Fanning Anti-Japanese Sentiments in China

This is the Xinhua report in today's Beijing News.  Now for the background first.  First, there is this infamous photograph:

The following explanation is offered in Iris Chang's The Rape of Nanking:

The most notorious one appeared in the December 7 issue of the Japanese Advertiser under the headline 'Sub-Lieutenants in Race To Fell 100 Chinese Running Close Contest."

Sub-Lieutenant Kutai Toshiaki and Sub-Lieutenant Noda Takeshi, both of the Katagiri unit at Kuyung, in a friendly contest to see which of them will first fell 100 Chinese in individual sword combat before the Japanese forces completely occupy Nanking, are well in the final phase of th eir race, running almost neck to neck.  On Sunday [December 5] ... the "score," acording to the Asahi, was: Sub-Lieutenant Mukai, 89, and Sub-Lieutenant Noda, 78.

A week later the paper reported that neither man could decide who had passed the 100 mark first, so they upped the goal to 150.  "Mukai's blade was slightly damaged in the competition," the Japanese Advertiser reported.  "He explained that was the result of cutting a Chinese in half, helmet and all.  The contest was 'fun' he declared."

So what?  Everybody knows this story already.  Besides the two individual officers had been tried by a military tribunal and executed in 1947 (see link).

Except some people would not let go.  Here is the report from Julian Ryall in the South China Morning Post (via Asia Media):

A lawyer representing the families of two Japanese soldiers executed in China for atrocities in the advance on Nanjing in 1937, then known as Nanking, has confirmed that he is ready to take the campaign for an apology and compensation from Japanese media all the way to Japan's Supreme Court.

The Tokyo District Court yesterday dismissed a claim by the soldiers' families that reports published in the Asahi newspaper and the predecessor of the Mainichi that the two men had competed to see who could be the first to cut the heads off 100 Chinese soldiers were a fabrication.

The original article was written in the style of a sports report, which the Tokyo Nichinichi headlined in 1937 as "Super record 100 cut down: Mukai at 106 vs Noda at 105. The two lieutenants in play-off". The families deny that the incident ever happened.  The relatives were demanding 36 million yen (HK$2.54 million) in damages from the Mainichi and the Asahi, which ran a story in 1971 by journalist Katsuichi Honda confirming that the competition occurred. Honda was also named in the suit.  "It was a wholly reasonable ruling. There is no room for doubt about it," said Honda. "Bringing such historical topics into a courtroom appears to be an attempt to deny the Nanking Massacre or the aggression in China."

Katsuhiko Takaike, the lawyer who has represented the families of Toshiaki Mukai and Takeshi Noda for the past two years, said: "We are very disappointed with the ruling but we will file our appeal to the high court within the next two weeks.  "If that is not successful, then we are ready to go to the Supreme Court and I believe we have a chance to win. I'm optimistic because the court admitted that some parts of our case are accurate."

Both men were executed after the war after being tried by Allied tribunals.

The families' case was seriously undermined, however, by the fact that the two lieutenants had agreed to publish their stories and made no effort to hide their involvement in the killing of civilians and prisoners of war, as well as soldiers.  "The lieutenants admitted that they were in a race to kill 100 people," judge Akio Doi told the court. "It is undeniable that the article included some errors and exaggeration, but it is difficult to say that it was not based on fact."

The above account was very much repeated in the Xinhua report (via  Beijing News), but there are a few more 'contextual' statements added.

[translation]  Katsuichi Honda said that the plaintiffs filed such a lawsuit because the right-wing forces were persuading them to do so behind the scenes.

But the noteworthy thiing is that judge Akio Doi wrote in the decision: "It is impossible to say that the contents were forged" but at the same time he also wrote: "The matter of the "hyakunin giri kyoso" (100 head contest 百人斩) is not yet a definitive historical fact."

The "100 head contest" lawsuit is a snapshot of the campaign by the Japanese right wing elements to "reverse the verdict" on the Japanese invasion.

Behind the three plaintiffs, a number of right wing media and culturati offer advice.  The Asahi newspaper and the journalist Katsuichi Honda were sued because they have held to the truth on reflecting about the war, and they were made the targets of right wing forces.

In recently years, the "reversal" attempt had been focussed on the Nanking massacre, the comfort women, the Marco Polo bridge incident, the Tokyo International War Crimes Tribunal and so on.  After the 1983 publication of "The Fiction of the Nanking Massacre", there were plenty said and printed in Japan to deny the Nanking massacre.  In 1995, the right wing history research society offered "The General Summary of the Great East Asian War" and intensified the effort to reverse the verdict.

This tide to "reverse the verdict" has also affected the contents of the Japanese history books.  In 2005, the Japanese Education Department approved middle school textbooks many of which omitted the mentioning of the comfort women while others just glossed over the Nanking massacre in ambiguous terms.

Do you think that the news report should have been left to just the reporting of the facts?  Do you think that additional Xinhua contextualization was inflammatory with the intention of reinforcing anti-Japanese feelings?  I report, you decide.

For comparison, see how the New York Times reporting on Ching Cheong?  Who did a better job?