Japanese film reopens Chinese war wounds

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CHINA has been infuriated by aJapanese film which Peking accuses of "whitewashing aggression and singing the praises" of Hideki Tojo, Japan's wartime prime minister, who was executed for war crimes in 1948.

Pride - the Fateful Moment, premiered for the Japanese media on Friday, immediately prompted an outcry from the Chinese government, including a lengthy "commentary" on the main evening television news lambasting the Japanese producers.

China was "shocked and indignant" at the film, said the China Daily yesterday, accusing it of "distorting historical facts" and depicting charges against Japanese troops of war crimes "as almost frame-ups based on hearsay evidence and over-statement". The film portrays the trial and last days of Tojo, who was prime minister from 1941 to 1944. At his trial, he accepted responsibility for starting the Pacific war.

China's depiction of its own recent past offers a less than honest portrayal of events including the Great Leap Forward famine, the Cultural Revolution, and the Tiananmen Square massacre, but that has never stopped Peking from lecturing Tokyo on the need for the Japanese to "have a correct view of history".

Japan's failure to provide China with a fulsome apology for wartime atrocities between its 1937 invasion and 1945 represents a constant irritant for Peking, and any attempt by right-wing Japanese to play down the country's war crimes results in angry protests from Peking. Japan's war crimes included the Nanking Massacre and the infamous medical- experiment centre in Manchuria.

The foreign-ministry spokesman, Zhu Bangzao, said the new film whitewashed the history of Japanese aggression against China.

"Such an act is bound to be strongly condemned by people who face up to history and love peace, including the Japanese people," Mr Zhu said.

"The crimes committed by the Japanese troops are proved by a mass of iron-clad and irrefutable evidence, and a just verdict was reached by the international community long ago. Hideki Tojo was the chief criminal of that war of aggression," he added. The film was based in part on the writings of Tojo's grand-daughter.

Sino-Japanese relations remain dogged by history, despite massive Japanese investment over the past 20 years.

Chinese children are regularly marched through the museum at Marco Polo Bridge, in the south-western Peking suburbs, which catalogues Japanese wartime atrocities. The Marco Polo Bridge "incident" on 7 July 1937, when Chinese and Japanese troops clashed, sparked the full-scale Japanese invasion.

Last July the Chinese propaganda machine put great effort into marking both the 60th anniversary of the Japanese invasion of China and the 25th anniversary of the resumption of diplomatic ties.

The People's Daily, mouthpiece of the Communist Party, thundered: "Some frantic militarist trumpeters in present Japan are trying to justify the crimes and atrocities."