Northeast China remembers Japanese colonization

2015-08-13 15:14Xinhua Editor: Gu Liping

Xinmin Avenue, which was built 82 years ago by invading Japanese, is still a major road in Changchun, capital city of northeast China's Jilin Province.[Special coverage]

The avenue, about 16 meters wide, is flanked by buildings that once housed the State Council, ministries and a court of Manchukuo, the puppet state in northeast China after the region was taken by the Japanese army.

The buildings are now part of a hospital and a college. They are not the only legacy left by the Japanese, who also built subways, toilets and gas pipelines in the city.

Liu Qixiang, however, is not grateful. "They did this to colonize," he said. "So many people died at that time."

On September 18, 1931, the Japanese destroyed the railway near Shenyang, capital of Liaoning, with dynamite, before blaming Chinese dissidents for the act. The "September 18 Incident" led to the Japanese invasion of northeast China.

The Japanese established the puppet state of Manchukuo in 1932, with Changchun as its capital.

Yosuke Matsuoka, Japanese Minister of Foreign Affairs, announced on August 1 that his government would establish a "Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere."

It was one of Japan's many creations to justify aggression in East Asia during World War II.

"Its nature was colonizing and looting," said Wang Shengjin, vice president of Jilin University. He pointed out that Japan at that time was trying to make Changchun its base for further invasion, where it could obtain necessary military resources.

Liu Qixiang, now 89, remembered being forced to work in a coal mine in 1943 along with his parents and brothers.

"Locked in the Pacific War, Japan was dying to get coal here at any cost," he said. "Accidents happened every now and then."

Liu's father died in a roof collapse accident, and his 15-year-old younger brother was injured in another. "I sent him to the mine's hospital, but the Japanese hospital wouldn't treat him at all. He died the next day," he recalled bitterly.

Output of the Xi'an Coal Mine rose from 168,000 tons in 1931 to 2.1 million in 1944, but behind the growth was the death of miners, who were buried in six mass graves.

At Liaoyuan Miner's Tomb Museum, where at least 3,200 bodies were found buried, curator Liu Yunlin told Xinhua that average life expectancy of the miners was only 30.5.

Liu Qixiang attempted to escape after his father died, but the mine was tightly guarded by the Japanese, who would punish the escapees with all sorts of torture.

In the museum, a skeleton bore knife wounds on the skull, chest and leg, showing visitors how the victim suffered.

According to the confession of Tadayuki Furuumi, who worked for the Manchukuo government, about 4.3 million Chinese were taken as laborers between 1942 and August 1945.

In 1944, near the end of the Pacific War, Japan carried out suicide aerial attacks against Allied naval vessels. There was a shortage of aluminum to make aircraft, so Japan looted 57.8 tons of coins.

"It was sheer robbery to take away our currency for the purpose of war," said Wang Shengjin.

Mr. Xu, a man in his 80s, was in primary school during Japanese rule. "Every morning, the first thing we did was bow to the east toward the Japanese emperor," he recalled. "We were ordered to learn the Japanese language, as well as the history of Manchuria and Japan."

Xu remembered that Chinese people were not allowed to eat rice. "It was an 'economic crime' to do so," he said. "We could only eat sorghum and millet at best."

Even Japanese soldiers were becoming increasingly skeptical about the war. Wang Shengjin noted that many letters by Japanese soldiers he saw appeared to have been altered. "Words and sentences questioning the purpose of the war were crossed out," he said.

Many people in northeast China chose to fight, like 88-year-old Zhang Dianguo.

Zhang's parents died while he was young. He then became a beggar. "The Japanese wouldn't spare even a beggar," he said. "They sent dogs to bite you, and murdering a man was just like killing a chicken."

He was asked to grow vegetables for the Japanese on a farm at the age of 17. "It was like a prison, surrounded by barbed wire," Zhang said. It was at that time he decided to fight the Japanese.

Zhang joined the army in 1944 with more than 120 other teenagers from his hometown. "Better to die with dignity than live in shame," he said. "I was brave, not afraid of death. To fight is to live."

Japan surrendered in August 1945. Zhang was only a few of the 120 who survived to see Japanese soldiers leave their town.

"We are finally the owners of our land again, at the cost of many lives," he said.

"In retrospect, we understand that the 'Greater East Asia Co-Prosperity Sphere' was not aimed at co-prosperity at all," said Wang Shengjin. "But nowadays, there are still some supporting this theory. It is high time that they wake up. We will not let history repeat itself."


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