Nanjing prepares to thank him for recognizing Japans WWII atrocities
By Sam Chu Lin
During the Nanjing massacre, Japanese troops tortured and killed hundreds of thousand of civilians. But some Japanese historians claim estimations are exaggerated. Others say the atrocities never happened.
In their fight for an apology and reparations, the victims and their families have found an unlikely ally, a man who lives half a world away, who is, himself, of Japanese descent. This weekend Rep. Mike Honda, D-Calif., will fly to China for a weeklong stay with some 30 other California state and local officials. During their visit, the group will be making stops in Beijing, Shanghai, Suzhou and Nanjing where Honda will be greeted with thanks for his work.
"I want to pay my respects to the people in Nanjing, Honda said. I want to be able to experience first hand some of the things that I have read and be able to understand more fully, on a personal basis, what people have said happened in Nanjing.
While serving in Californias state Assembly, Honda introduced resolution AJR 27, which was adopted by both houses of the state legislature. It called on Japan to apologize for its World War II atrocities and to pay reparations to its victims.
Jeffrey Chang, a San Francisco attorney and a member of the Board of Directors of the California Senate International Relations Foundation, is helping to organize the China trip.
"Since 1975, Jiangsu Province in China has been adopted as Californias friendship state, he said. Nanjing is the capitol seat there. For the longest time, the Jiangsu government has been trying to invite Honda to come to Nanjing for what he has done and to receive the appreciation of Jiangsu and the people of Nanjing.
As a Congressman, Honda also brought the issue of Japanese reparations to the national stage. He co-sponsored a bill with Rep. Dana Rohrbacher, R-Calif., aimed at helping American POWs who were used as slaves by Japanese companies during the war. If adopted, POWs could sue those companies for an apology and back wages.
The Japanese government says it has settled such complaints as a result of the U.S.-Japan Peace Treaty signed in 1951. The 50th anniversary of that event will be commemorated on Sept. 8 in San Francisco.
Honda, however, explained that a clause in the treaty states that if other countries give the victims of the war reparations, Japan must match those benefits. The congressman feels his visit to China will help him to prepare for more debate on this subject.
I will be able to say, Ive been there. Ive seen things. I felt things. I heard things. It wont be from photos or hearsay. Itll be a first-hand experience, he said.
Honda helped fight for redress for the 120,000 Japanese Americans placed in internment camps during the war, to ensure such injustices arent repeated. He said Japan should do the same.
At the same time, he recognizes that China has its own historical blemishes. Chinas human rights record needs improvement, he pointed out, but the United States should not isolate China because of that.
"My understanding of the judicial system in China is that it is very limited, he said. But with more exposure to the global community, things can change.