Right-wing Japanese officials expressed their outrage of over the inclusion of documents concerning the Rape of Nanking, also known as the Nanking Massacre, in the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization’s Memory of the World register.
The Memory of the World program is a UNESCO endeavor launched in 1992 to preserve, protect, and make accessible the documentary heritage of the world.
Recently, the organization accepted an assortment of documents which the Chinese government claims are accurate reflections of the events.
Japan, long at odds with China over the actual numbers resulting from the week-long slaughter, has expressed its dissatisfaction with UNESCO, since there are concerns that the documents portray the country’s actions during WWII in a negative light.
The Chinese, however, feel that the documents accurately represent the horror of the massacre, which they claim took somewhere near 300,000 lives.
Most contemporary historians, even of Japanese nationality, agree that this estimate is within the ballpark, with estimates ranging from 200,000 to 400,000 dead.
Moreover, countless Chinese women were raped and forced to serve as “comfort women,” essentially prostitutes, for Japanese military men.
However, the Japanese government feels that China is still, 70 years later, using the event as propaganda against Japanese wartime actions for its own benefit.
Japan claims that the real number of casualties may never be known, and that there is not enough historical evidence.
The topic is a sensitive one for both parties, and even for other countries in the region. Korea, as well as China, was severely victimized by the Japanese in WWII and unrepentant Japanese statements over the years have not eased that feeling of hostility.
Japan is the largest donor to UNESCO, and the most significant expression of its anger is its threat to reduce or withhold funding from the organization until these documents are disavowed.
Such an action is typical of Japanese views on the Rape of Nanking, and on the events of WWII, of which Japan has been accused of “whitewashing” for its own self-image.