A documentary aired by Japan's public broadcaster NHK on Sunday showing the atrocities inflicted by Unit 731, a covert biological and chemical warfare research and development unit of the Japanese army, on Chinese during World War II has triggered calls for deeper reflection on the country's wartime past. Beijing News commented on Thursday:
The documentary, dubbed The Truth of Harbin Unit 731, marks a praiseworthy move to teach Japanese rightists a history lesson. Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said that China appreciates the courage of Japanese people with vision revealing the truth, while hoping Japan will take seriously the calls for justice.
It is praiseworthy that the largest, most influential broadcaster in Japan did not shy away from presenting the country's war crimes two days before the 72nd anniversary of the end of World War II. Many of its China-related documentaries, estimated at over 2,000, have been biased and misleading, particularly after Shinzo Abe returned to power as prime minister in 2012.
NHK's improper programs about China had a lot to do with its previous management board, which was run by Abe protégés, including former NHK President Katsuto Momii, who said "comfort women", the euphemistic term for women forced by the Japanese military to be sex slaves, were used by "every country" during that period and the practice should not be judged by "today's morality". Momii also came under fire for similarly preposterous comments he made about the 1937 Nanjing Massacre.
Things started to change after the former Mitsubishi Corp executive Ryoichi Ueda was chosen to run the national television early this year. Unlike his predecessor, Ueda seeks to end the endorsement of right-wing views and refuses to fabricate history for political maneuvers. Airing the Unit 731 documentary is the latest manifestation of his resolve to correct the wrongs and thaw China-Japan ties.
The documentary has been welcomed by Chinese not just because it represents a refreshed view of Japan's WWII narrative, but also because it gives them hope that the Japanese revisionists will not get their way and justice will be done. This part of history must be told in the right way and made known to more people in Japan.