10,000 Cries for Justice

Overview: About 25 years ago a young and concerned Chinese citizen thought that something should be done to help the thousands and thousands of Chinese victims of atrocities suffered at the hands of the Japanese military during the Second Sino-Japanese War (1931-1945). These victims of one of the most massive and inhumane atrocities in the history of mankind should receive an acknowledgement, an apology, and compensation from the government that inflicted that atrocity. This article describes the one-person campaign that Mr. Tong Zeng (童增) of Beijing started a quarter of a century ago that has led to the current “10,000 Cries for Justice” campaign.

Origin of Campaign:  Starting around 1989, Mr. Tong Zeng, with a master degree in law, investigated various international legal cases and issues regarding compensation for atrocities committed during a war by one country on the citizens of another country. He concluded that the Chinese citizens who were victims of Japanese atrocities during the Second Sino-Japanese War have every right to seek compensation from Japan (from the Japanese government or in the case of slave labors, also from the Japanese corporations who used the slave laborers). In particular, he distinguished the case of the Chinese government seeking compensation from Japan and the case of Chinese citizens seeking compensation from Japan. This means that in 1972 when the Chinese government, as a gesture of good will, waived her right to seek compensation from Japan when the two countries established diplomatic relations, the Chinese government waived only the right of the Chinese government seeking compensation from Japan. It did not waive the right of Chinese citizens seeking compensation from Japan.

In July 1990 he summarized his findings in a white paper “China Demands Japan to Compensate Atrocity Victims” 《中国要求日本“受害赔偿”刻不容缓》.  [To see Tong Zeng’s white paper, click Chinese or English for the original Chinese version or the English translation.]  He sent his white paper to several newspapers in China, but none reported it.

Then in late March 1991 he sent his white paper to the National People’s Congress (NPC) which was meeting in Beijing at that time, and he also alerted the press. This time the newspaper “Ming Bao” (明报) in Hong Kong published on 3/30/1991 a short article about it. A couple of days later, he and one of his students Chen Jian (陈健) distributed copies of his white paper to various delegates on their way to attend the NPC. Several of the NPC delegates liked his proposal and submitted it as an item for discussion at the NPC. Although this issue was not discussed at the 1991 NPC because it was submitted after the deadline for submission for the 1991 NPC, the media coverage of this white paper, especially after the 1992 NPC, ignited a brush fire across the whole country.

Immediately he received an avalanche of support letters from people all over China. These letters provided heart-wrenching recalls of the atrocities they or their relatives had suffered at the hands of the Japanese military. Seeking acknowledgement, apology, and compensation for the atrocities committed by the Japanese military was a long-overdue item for seeking justice and closure that has been buried in the hearts and souls of thousands and thousands of Chinese atrocity victims and their relatives. Within a few years, he had received about 10,000 such letters. This is why this campaign is called “10,000 Cries for Justice.”

Twenty Years Passed:
After more than 20 years, not only that there was no progress from Japan to face up to this part of history, many Japanese government leaders have continued to make comments that these atrocities were the natural consequences of war, they were invented by the victims, or flatly deny the existence of these atrocities. Mr. Tong thought that it may be time to publish these personal accounts and let the world know about it.

Collaborative Project: When reports about the existence of these letters reached the U.S., David Chai and Don Tow, both with extensive experience in community activities in the U.S., immediately contacted Mr. Tong to seek his agreement to establish a joint project to scan and digitize these letters and post them in a public website, with translation into English of these letters. Mr. Tong agreed and assigned his chief assistant Ms. Meng Huizhong to work with Dr. Chai and Dr. Tow, and the joint project was initiated in January 2014.

The purpose of this collaborative project is to preserve in a digital archive the collection of these thousands of original personal accounts that Mr. Tong Zeng received more than 20 years ago from the victims of Japanese military atrocities. This multilingual, digital archive not only will not deteriorate with age, but will make it simultaneously available to the whole world. This digital archive documenting the first-hand experience of the victims provides powerful evidence to refute all the false claims made by the Japanese government.

After 18 months of hard collaborative work between the team in China and the team in the U.S., this multilingual website is scheduled to go public in July 2015, in time to support the commemoration of the 70th anniversary of the end of the Second Sino-Japanese War and the end of WWII. In the initial release, only 10% of the letters will be translated into English. More letters will be translated in future releases. Besides being a depository of these valuable historical personal letters, it provides search capabilities to find letters corresponding to a location, a date, a victim’s name, or the kind of atrocity, etc. It should facilitate historians who want to do further research on these issues. The website address will be announced when it is ready to go public.

Significance of Project: The “10,000 Cries for Justice” project will provide a powerful tool to learn from history. The consequence of not learning from history is that people will follow the same path and history will repeat itself. We don’t want this type of tragic history to be repeated anywhere on earth.

 * Quote from American/Spanish Philosopher George Santayana

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One Response to “10,000 Cries for Justice”

  1. linda kravetz says:

    Great blog, Don. Excellent research on Japanese-Chinese issues, details we don’t normally get from history books like the existence of those personal accounts of atrocities and your and your colleague’s efforts to bring them to light. They’re important to the full understanding of this tragedy – as they say God (or the devil) is in the details. Thanks for sharing.

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