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China's nameless dead

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热度1293票 时间:2007年8月05日 21:54
SUZHOU, Aug. 3
YANG HENGJUN
Guest Commentary
Sudden heavy rains turned Jinan city in China's Shandong province into a city of water two weeks ago. At least 34 people lost their lives. The Yinzuo Underground Supermarket, the most crowded place downtown, became a water tank within half an hour. Although the authorities claimed there were no deaths or injuries, rumors of dead and wounded persisted.

    The local television station and other media remained calm, their emphasis on the actions of local leaders in handling the situation in the affected areas. No one mentioned how serious the flooding was. No one explained why main areas of a provincial capital could be submerged by a three-hour rainstorm.

    Only on the Internet did news begin to leak out. Yet details of the disaster and an estimated number of deaths were quickly followed by news that the citizen who posted this information had been arrested. The crime was "disturbing public order."

    Perhaps I should keep silent about this, as I am not a resident of Jinan. I may be labeled as "having bad motives" or "disturbing Jinan's public order." However, I cannot stop my mind from thinking, and what this situation brought to mind was the Nanjing Massacre.

    For me, the unforgettable thing about the 1937 Nanjing Massacre is the number of dead: 300,000. I have no doubt about this figure. During the war the Japanese killed so many people, the figure couldn't be smaller. The total number of people killed by the Japanese in wartime is uncountable.

    However, what pains me most is not the figure, nor Japan's denial of the figure or even Japan's denial of the Nanjing Massacre. What grieves me is the fact that we haven't been able to provide a name list of the 300,000 victims, even now. We're far from being able to provide a list of even 100,000 victims. Were the dead our compatriots, or soldiers fighting the enemy? Who were they? Didn't they have families? Didn't they have names?

    If you look at the National World War II Memorial in the United States, or touch the wall at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C., you can feel every single name carved on the stone. Even as a foreigner I was deeply moved by that. There are no dead soldiers or citizens without names.

    If you go to the Yasukuni Shrine in Tokyo it is the same. All the killed soldiers, even the war criminals, have their name tablets displayed, so the Japanese people can pay their respects and fulfill their duties to the dead.

    By contrast, our 300,000 Nanjing citizens and soldiers died with their names unknown, so that they became lonely and wandering ghosts. Nanjing, as China's capital at that time, should have had records about its citizen population. The army should have known the names of all its soldiers.

    But the situation was just the opposite. Among the soldiers, there were many able-bodied men who were dragged into the army without formal registration, so they had no names left. Among the people living in Nanjing, many had wandered in from other regions and were not treated as normal citizens by the government. These people were like the crowds of workers who wander in from the poor rural areas to Jinan and other big cities today.

    No wonder we cannot call out the names of the compatriots killed by the Japanese. Is it our inability or our scorn for the dead that prevents us from calling out their names? Was it that the Japanese treated our compatriots as animals or that our government had never treated our citizens as human beings? What was the government doing if it did not even know the names of its people, who paid various taxes to feed the government?

    I know it is inappropriate for me to question the names of the 300,000 victims. Many Chinese people may think I should harbor a bitter hatred of the Japanese. But actually it shouldn't be that way; Japan already surrendered 50 years ago. That means the Chinese people won, doesn't it? But why do the Chinese people remain filled with anger, as if we had not won?

    In my opinion, if our present government acts the same as the government of that time -- concealing the names and numbers of the dead -- it's no wonder we don't have a feeling of "victory."

    Back to the flood in Jinan -- how many people really died in the flood? Jinan suffers from disasters every year, but most are caused by natural forces. There is no reason for the government to conceal the actual number of deaths.

    After several dozen years, most people know they cannot believe the death figures issued by the government: how many died in the Great Chinese Famine (1958-61); how many were prosecuted to death during the Cultural Revolution (1966-76); how many were killed in the war with Vietnam (1979); how many have died in the mines and illegal kilns?

    How many people died in Tiananmen Square in 1989? Why did the government keep secret the numbers afflicted by SARS when the disease was first discovered?

    Why are we afraid of facing the actual numbers of those who die? Those cold figures of death are related to our warm-blooded compatriots, who have names, who are our brothers and sisters. If possible, China should learn from what the Americans and Japanese have done. We should engrave their names on stones and inscribe them on tablets, to let the dead rest in peace and let the living remember them in dignity and peace.

    The government has the best resources to provide the true figures in times of death and disaster, yet in the end, it is usually rumors spread among the people that turn out to be true, while government information is false.

    Telling the truth about deaths and disasters will not undermine the credibility of the government or disrupt social harmony. On the contrary, if a government persists in concealing the truth, once the truth is exposed people will lose confidence and trust in the government and its ruling party. This will lead to a far more serious crisis.

    --

    (Yang Hengjun is a well-known Internet critic on current affairs and author of political spy novels. He has been a researcher on international relations and politics for the Chinese government. This article is translated and edited from the Chinese by UPI Asia Online; the original may be found at http://news.boxun.com/news/gb/pubvp/2007/07/200707291610.shtml . ©Copyright Yang Hengjun.)
from: http://www.upiasiaonline.com/storyView.php?uri=commentary_chinas_nameless_dead#post

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