|Copyright 2006 -2007 All Rights Reserved Charleston C. K. Wang, Esq., Publisher
Playing with Ghosts of the Asian Holocaust
On June 7, 2007, former Taiwanese President, Lee Teng-hui, while in Japan,
visited the Yasukuni war shrine and prayed in its inner hall because his brother is
listed in the Shinto Book of Souls kept there. As Taiwan was under Japanese
occupation from 1895 to 1945, his brother served with the Japanese Imperial Navy
during World War II, was killed on duty during February 1945 in the Philippines,
and is enshrined at Yasukuni.
In televised comments, Mr. Lee proclaimed that it was a private affair and asked
that his appearance at Yasukuni not be linked with either politics or history. But
the fact is that he is a former President of the Republic of China and his politics
radically favors an independent Taiwan, separate and distinct from China. In this
respect, he will always have his supporters and detractors.
Leaving politics aside, there is the greater issue of closing our eyes to history.
Beginning in the late 19th century and culminating in defeat in 1945, Japanese
imperialism had caused the deaths of tens of millions of civilians and prisoners-of-
war throughout Asia with such brutality that these acts are referred to as the Asian
Holocaust, or more charitably, Japanese war atrocities. Thousands of those who
had played key roles in the atrocities were tried and convicted by Allied war crime
During the Second World War, Japan was one the Axis powers whose dream of a
Fascist new world order cast a dark shadow on humanity across the face of the
globe. Their ignominy is an indelible part of modern history. The fact is that while
memory of such war crimes in China is particularly bitter (19 million died in the
war), atrocities were committed in Asia and the Pacific islands wherever the
Japanese military invaded and attempted to secure its conquest. The victims were
civilians and military personnel from all over the world. This infamy has caused
Japanese politicians to eschew Yasukuni which honors 1068 war criminals of
World War II, including 12 top convicts, along with 2.5 million other Japanese war
dead. Those Japanese politicians who do visit a memorial tainted with a Fascist
legacy are regularly castigated by pubic opinion within their own country and
certainly by those in the world who remember.
So why would Mr. Lee make such a gesture that many Japanese politicians would
think twice of doing? His core motive shall remain known only to himself and to
the ghosts of war. The objections of the living can be objectively stated. Mr. Lee
at Yasukuni is an affront to the memory of the victims of the Asian Holocaust. Mr.
Lee’s presence at Yasukuni is an affront to all humanity who have lost family and
friends to the atrocities of that sad period of our history, atrocities which all good
people should remember in order they are never again repeated.
If Mr. Lee’s true intention is to pay filial respect to his elder brother, in lieu of
bowing, praying, and making other obeisance in a foreign shrine, would it not be
more fitting for the former head-of-state to request his brother’s symbolic re-
interment to a private family resting place in the land where he was born and
which Mr. Lee loves so dearly, Taiwan?
An Opinion by Charleston C. K. Wang - June 20, 2007.