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70th Anniversary of the Rape of Nanjing

13 Dec 2007

70 years ago today, Chinese forces lost hold of their capital city, Nanjing, to the invading Japanese forces. What ensued was an orgy of plunder, rape, arson, and murder that lasted for six weeks. Journalist Edgar Snow provided the following eyewitness account:

Thousands of men were led out of the [Nanjing International Safety] Zone, ostensibly for labour battalions, and lined up and machine-gunned. Sometimes groups were used for bayonet exercises. When the victors grew bored with such mild sport they tied their victims, poured kerosene over their heads, and cremated them alive. Others were taken out to empty trenches, and told to simulate Chinese soldiers. Japanese officers then led their men in assaults to capture these 'enemy positions' and bayoneted the unarmed defenders.

Shi Xiuqin, a survivor, told reporters of Agence-France Presse that "I saw [Japanese soldiers] use knives to slit people open from head to waist". There were over 20,000 cases of rape, and a decapitation competition was held by some Japanese troops. Depending on the source, somewhere between 50,000 to 300,000 Chinese were killed.

Air sirens were sounded in Nanjing today to mark the anniversary, and a ceremony was held at the memorial hall built for the very purpose of remembrance.

The Nanjing Massacre, or more recently the Rape of Nanjing, has been a sore spot in the relationship between Communist China and Japan. Many Chinese continue to demand official Japanese recognition and apology of the atrocities, while expressing anger that Japanese history textbooks still gloss only lightly over the topic. "They should not cover up their crimes anymore", said Chen Fubao, whose father was killed during the massacre. The younger Japanese are growing increasingly frustrated for the demands to apologize for crimes committed by a previous generation, while small groups of the older Japanese continue to deny systematic atrocities took place.

For more information:

WW2DB: The Battle of Nanjing/the Rape of Nanjing
BBC: China remembers dead of Nanjing
AFP: China looks ahead on 70th anniversary of Nanjing Massacre



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