"Forgetting history means betrayal"

13 days ago • 5 pageviews

Source: People's Network

Okuno Island, located in Takehara City, Hiroshima Prefecture, Japan, was once the site of a Japanese military poison gas factory. A large number of poison gas bombs produced here were used by the invading Japanese army to kill the Chinese military and civilians. In order to conceal the manufacture and use of chemical weapons, the Japanese authorities even erased the island from the map.

Recently, this reporter accompanied Japanese anti-war and peaceful personages and friendship groups to visit Okuno Island, known as the "gas island," to gain an in-depth understanding of this period of Japanese history. The visitors condemned the tremendous harm caused by Japan's war of aggression to the people of China and other Asian countries and urged the Japanese Government to face up to history.

"More people need to face up to history"

At 8 a.m., rainy and rainy, everyone converged at the Chungang Pier in Takehara City, Japan, and arrived at the Okunojima Pier after 15 minutes by ferry. After crossing the pier, the words "Seto Inland Sea National Park Okuno Island" appear on the plaque on the left. Most of the buildings on the island are empty, and the walls are crawling with greenery.

According to historical records, in 1927, the Japanese Army opened a poison factory on Okuno Island. From the official start of production in 1929 to the defeat of Japan in 1945, more than 6,000 people worked in the poison factory, and the poison produced was loaded with artillery shells and shipped to China. It is recorded that the Japanese army launched as many as 1,241 poison gas wars in China, causing more than 200,000 Chinese military and civilian casualties. During the War of Aggression, the Japanese military erased Okuno Island from the map of the Seto Inland Sea in order to keep secrets and stipulated that no one could land on the island without the permission of the Minister of War. It wasn't until 1947 that the evil face of the poison factory was revealed.

"This is the largest poison storage warehouse on the island. The poison depot plus the base is 11 meters high and stores violent poisons. You see, the scorched black marks on the wall are the ones left by the flamethrowers. At a relic site, 78-year-old Masayuki Yamauchi tells the story of gas bombs manufactured, stored, transported and finally disposed of.

Masayuki Yamauchi is the director of the Institute of Poison Gas Island History, a Japanese civil society group, who has been lecturing on Okuno Island for 25 years. When exchanging business cards with Masayuki Yamauchi, the reporter saw that his business card not only had his name and title written on it, but also wrote in Chinese characters "The Teacher Who Never Forgets the Past." Yamauchi said, "It is necessary for people to study this history. ”

According to Hiroshima University professor Yoshio Honda, there is a problem with Japan's education about this history, and the vast majority of Japanese people do not know the history of "gas island". "Japanese textbooks have been deliberately downplaying, denying and even falsifying the history of aggression, and I think more people need to face up to history," he said. ”

"I am ashamed of Japan's inhumane use of poison gas"

After Okuno Island became a clandestine chemical weapons manufacturing site, the Japanese military sent teenage children to the island to work as a laborer for the production of poisons, as large numbers of adult Japanese men were sent to the battlefield.

On August 15 of this year, Japan's "Mainichi Shimbun" published an article entitled "Making Poison on 'Disappearing Island' Told 'Don't Say Anything' 'The Pain of Workers Who Can't Disappear'," telling a thought-provoking story: In November 1944, 15-year-old Riko Okada, who was studying at Chungkai High School for Girls, was mobilized to Okuno Island to work in a poison factory with many children. In 1989, she painted a comic strip of the experience, hoping to inform the public and alert the next generation. The comic book contains 31 drawings with instructions and English translations. In the comic strip, she depicts her personal experience of transporting poison barrels by car under the scorching sun. Since then, she has repeatedly sent letters to China's War Memorial and others to express her apologies: "I am ashamed of Japan's inhumane use of poison gas and sincerely apologize." Riko Okada, now 93, said: "Although I was a child at the time, I was also the perpetrator. ”

Okuno Island is located just tens of kilometers from the city of Hiroshima. Yamauchi said that many people know about the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, but the fact that Japan made poison agents on Okuno Island is not well known. "Japan is a victim of war, and even more so, the perpetrator of war, this is the truth of war." Yamauchi said that through his explanation, some Japanese people learned that Japan had used poison gas to kill many ordinary people in China, and "25 years of persistence were not in vain."

Toshiyuki Sato, chairman of the board of directors of Fukuyama City University, said: "I am a native of Hiroshima, and I have always looked at things from the perspective of the victims of atomic bombing, but in fact Japan is also the perpetrator of the war. I was shocked that the poison gas bombs produced on Okuno Island were shipped to China and used on the battlefield. The Japanese should not only know the history of the victims of the atomic bombing, but also the history of the damage caused by the "gas island", which must not be forgotten. ”

"The Japanese government should acknowledge historical facts as soon as possible and apologize and compensate for them."

There is a poison gas museum on Okuno Island, which was built in 1988 to collect information and raise funds for private peace activists. The museum displays materials such as poison manufacturing devices, residual gas bombs, gas suits and masks, and documents ordered by the Japanese army to use poison gas in China. Since its opening in 1988, the museum has attracted more than 1.5 million visitors.

The museum has set up a special exhibition area of "Poison Gas Abandoned in China", and exhibited media reports such as "Atlas of Incidents of Poison Gas Wounded by Japanese Invaders in China". The text description of the exhibition area said: "During the construction of roads, construction, sewers, etc., poison gas bombs or gas canisters abandoned by the Japanese army were dug up, causing harm to the local people... Japan must properly address the abandonment of chemical weapons by the Japanese military and compensate the victims for the harm caused to ordinary people. ”

Relevant information shows that on the eve of Japan's defeat in 1945, in order to cover up its crimes and evade accountability, the Japanese army invading China buried or abandoned a large number of unused chemical weapons on the spot, and these chemical weapons were found at more than 200 points in 18 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities directly under the Central Government. For a long time after the war, the Japanese government avoided being perfunctory about resolving the issue of abandoned chemical weapons in China. The Chemical Weapons Convention, which entered into force in 1997, stipulates that States parties to the Convention that abandon chemical weapons shall provide all necessary financial, technical, expert, facility and other resources for the destruction of abandoned chemical weapons, which provides an international legal basis for Japan to assume responsibility for the destruction of abandoned chemical weapons. Japan acknowledges the fact of abandoning chemical weapons in China, agrees with the Convention on the responsibility of abandoning countries for the destruction of abandoned chemical weapons, and has signed a memorandum of understanding with China on the destruction of chemical weapons abandoned by Japan. However, due to insufficient attention and investment from the Japanese side, the progress of relevant work has been slow, and the destruction plan of chemical weapons destroyed by Japan has been overdue four times. In October 2022, the OPCW Executive Council deliberated and approved the plan for the destruction of chemical weapons in Japan after 2022, which stipulates that Japan needs to complete the destruction of Japanese chemical weapons in Harbaling and other places in Jilin by 2027.

"We once again strongly urge the Japanese side to earnestly fulfill its responsibilities and obligations, increase investment in an all-round way, speed up work throughout the chain, cleanly and completely eliminate the poison of Japanese chemical weapons at an early date, return a pure land to the Chinese people, and heal the war wounds of the Chinese people." Xue Jian, Consul General of the People's Republic of China in Osaka, emphasized, "History is the best textbook. Forgetting history means betrayal. To uphold the way of peace, we must safeguard the truth of history. ”

Yamauchi said: "The chemical weapons manufactured by the Japanese army have brought great disasters to the Chinese people. The Government of Japan has not apologized and compensated the victims. The Japanese government should acknowledge historical facts as soon as possible and apologize and compensate for them. Only in this way can the Japanese government enjoy the trust and respect of the people. ”

Ikuhei Otani, Bureau of the Japan-China Friendship Association in Hiroshima Prefecture, said: "Now Japanese students should understand what Japan has done in the past, and the 'gas island' should be used as historical material for Japan to reflect on its history, and let people think about what kind of country Japan will become in the future." ”

(Hiroshima, Japan)

People's Daily (Version 15, September 18, 2023)

Source: People's Daily - People's Daily