PRESIDENT Xi Jinping (習近平) and other Chinese leaders presided on Saturday over a ceremony marking the 77th anniversary of the Nanjing (南京) massacre, amid a drive to preserve memories of Japan’s (日本) brutal invasion and stir patriotism.
Addressing soldiers, students and survivors of the December 1937 killings carried out by occupying Japanese troops, Xi called out Japanese ultranationalists who seek to deny the massacre took place.
“Those who uphold justice and love peace must be highly vigilant and firmly oppose those wrong words and deeds,” he said. “History will not permit anyone who would deny the facts of the Nanjing atrocity.”
Estimates of those killed range from 40,000 to the official Chinese figure of 300,000. About 20,000 women were also believed to have been raped over the six weeks of chaos, mass looting and arson.
China raised the profile of commemorations this year as part of three new holidays to mark major wartime events at a time when China-Japan relations are experiencing a downturn.
Participants at the ceremony and people throughout the city stood for one minute of silence at 10am against the wail of what was described as the world’s largest air raid siren.
In his speech to a reported 10,000 people gathered at the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall, Xi said the purpose of the event was to “arouse every kind person’s longing for an adherence to peace, and not to perpetuate hatred”.
Ties with Japan in particular have been roiled by a series of events leading to a more than two-year suspension in high-level contacts that have yet to be fully restored. The two have been sparring over the Diaoyu Islands (釣魚島) in the East China Sea (東海) that are controlled by Tokyo (東京) but also claimed by Beijing (北京).
China was also angered by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s (安倍晉三) moves to allow the dispatch of Japanese troops for operations abroad and visits by Japanese officials – including Abe – to Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine (靖國神社) that honours convicted Japanese war criminals among the country’s war dead. They include three of the top commanders executed for their role in the Nanjing massacre.