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XUE Jinwen A Battle of Human Rights and Anti-Human Rights in the Chinese People’s War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression
September 18,2015   By:chinahumanrights.org
XUE Jinwen

A Battle of Human Rights and Anti-Human Rights in the Chinese
People’s War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression

The Chinese People’s War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression was the first completely successful national liberation war of the Chinese people against foreign enemy’s aggression, a battle between human rights and anti-human rights, a wrestle between civilization and brutality, and a decisive engagement between justice and evil.

I. The aggressive war of the Japanese militarism is the brutal trample on human rights

The Japanese War of Aggression against China brought the Chinese people gigantic casualties and property losses: More than 35 million Chinese soldiers and civilians were injured or died, accounting for 1/3 of the international total; according to the price ratio in 1937, the Chinese official property losses and war consumption amounted to more than $100 billion, and the indirect economic losses reached above $500 billion.1 During the war, the Japanese invaders committed grievous atrocities on the Chinese people, completely trampled on the human rights of the Chinese people, and brought about the unprecedented havoc of human rights.

i. Japanese massacres of the Chinese people trampled on the right to life of the Chinese people.
The Japanese invaders ignored the basic norms of the International Laws and committed tens of thousands of murders and massacres of innocent residents including more than 200 times of slaughters in which more than 1,000 people were killed each time . In Nanjing more than 300,000 civilians and prisoners of war were slaughtered , which became the appalling atrocities in the history of human civilization. They launched large scale “mop-up operations”, implemented the policy of “burning all, killing all, and looting all” in the anti-Japanese base in an attempt to destroy the basic survival conditions of the anti-Japanese soldiers and civilians, and produced a series of shocking massacres in many places. In accordance with the incomplete statistics of the seven liberated areas, namely, Shanxi-Chahar-Hebei, Shandong, Hebei-Rehe-Liaoning, Shanxi-Suiyuan, Shanxi- Hebei-Shandong -Henan, Jiangsu-Anhui, and the Central Plains, 3.18 million people were killed or ill-treated to death, 2.76 million were captured, 19.52 million houses were burnt down; 114.9 billion jin (about 57.45 billion kg) of grains, 6.31 million farm animals, 48 million pigs and sheep, 222.7 million pieces of farm implements and furniture, and 229 million beddings and clothing were lost.        On August 19, 1945, after Japan declared surrender, the Japanese invaders still slaughtered the civilians of Sanjiatun Village, Touzhan Town, Longjiang County, Heilongjiang Province. All the 83 civilians, old and young, were killed. 

ii. Indiscriminated bombing infringed on the rights of the civilians in wartime. The unscrupulous Japanese bombing on the residential towns gave rise to huge casualties and property losses. In line with the incomplete statistics, during July 1937 through July 1943, the Japanese air raids caused a total casualty of 762,183, including 335,934 deaths and 426,249 injuries.1 Since early 1939, the Japanese army launched long-term bombing on Chongqing, China’s interim capital in wartime. In the consecutive two days air raids of May 3 and 4, 1939, roughly 1/3 of the buildings of the whole city were destroyed, about 2,000 residents died, more than 3,300 were injured, and even the British, French and German embassies stationed in Chongqing could not escape by sheer luck and suffered from injuries and deaths too. The bombing on May 25, 1939 caused more than 20,000 civilians to die or get injured.

iii. The application of chemical and biological weapons committed brutal crimes against humanity. In June 1925, the League of Nations passed the Protocol for the Prohibition of the Use in War of Asphyxiating, Poisonous, or Other Gasses, and of Bacteriological Methods of Warfare (also called Geneva Protocol). Nonetheless, Japan, one of the 37 signatories, became the only country applying large scale use of chemical and biological weapons in World War II. During the Japanese aggression against China, the 731 Japanese Army and its branch troops slaughtered innumerable patriots against Japanese aggression and innocent civilians through the “in vivo experiment”. Kiyoshi Kawashima, former director of the Bacteria Production Division of the 731 Japanese Army confessed at Khabarovsk Military Court that, “During 1940 through 1945, more than 3,000 people were killed in the slaughter house. But I don’t know how many people were massacred before 1940.” According to incomplete statistics, the Japanese army applied more than 2,000 times of chemical weapons in 18 Chinese provinces, which caused direct casualties of more than 100,000 of the Chinese soldiers and civilians. More than 2 million chemical shells of all types weighing about 13,000 tons were found discarded in China, causing accidental deaths or injuries of more than 2,000 people and still posing severe threat to the life safety of the Chinese people.      

iv. The Japanese invaders in China captured Chinese laborers by force, abused them, and enslaved them. In order to “fuel the war with war”, the Japanese invaders not merely crazily plundered the occupied area but also implemented the policy of forced labor and captured the Chinese laborers by force. During 1937 through 1942, more than 5.69 million able-bodied men in North China were captured and sent to Northeast China.   In the 14-year aggression against China, the Japanese army totally captured more than 10 million Chinese laborers including up to 2 million laborers who were abused to death in Northeast China. In line with the statistics of Japan after war, nearly 40,000 Chinese laborers were transported to Japan as coolies, about 7,000 of whom died and 6,778 were injured or disabled. Their rate of casualty exceeded 1/3 of the total Chinese laborers in Japan.1

v. The Japanese invaders in China abused Chinese women, implemented the policy of “military comfort women”, and treaded on women’s personality, dignity and personal rights.Wherever the Japanese invaders came, countless Chinese women were raped or slaughtered. The Japanese invaders also forced hundreds of thousands of women of China, Korea, Southeast Asian countries, and some Western countries to be sex slaves as planed in an organized way. As a Japanese assisting the United States in classifying the intelligence after the war witnessed, the Chinese women taken as the so-called “military comfort women” by force accounted for 67.8% of the total sex slaves taken by the Japanese army on the battlefields in Asia. At this ratio, the Chinese victims amounted to 240,000-280,000.      The Japanese army’s enforcement of women to be sex slaves was “the unprecedented collective enslavement of men over women in the history of human civilization”, “the systemized government crimes committed by Japanese militarism against humanism, gender ethics, and conventions of war”, “one of the most miserable records in the
3history of world women”, and “the humiliation of the civilized world.”

vi. The Japanese invaders in China deliberately destroyed the Chinese culture and infringed on China’s cultural rights. The Japanese invaders wantonly plundered historical relics, ancient books and records, destroyed cultural and educational institutions, and brought havoc to the Chinese civilization of five thousand years. According to incomplete statistics of the War-time Historical Relics Loss Clarification Committee of the Ministry of Education of the National Government, the looted and destroyed public and private historical relics of China during the wartime numbered 3,607,074 pieces in 1,870 cases and 741 scenic spots and historic sites were destroyed throughout China (excluding Northeast China, Taiwan, and the liberated areas under the leadership of the Communist Party of China).  On July 29, 1937, the Japanese army brazenly declared to bomb Nankai University, a famous institution of higher learning, at the release conference with the Chinese and foreign journalists present. Afterwards, it carried off everything and bombed Nankai University to be ruins in two days. During July 1937 through August 1938, 91 out of the 108 Chinese institutions of higher learning were destroyed by the Japanese army, accounting for 85% of the national total. Thereinto, 25 were closed down due to severe destruction and 10 were completely destroyed.   The losses of valuable books and data of the Chinese institutions of higher learning, such as the archives on the modern history of China collected by Tsinghua University, the research data on the geology of China collected by Peking University, and the research data on the economy of North China collected by Nankai University could not be measured by money.
vii. The Japanese invaders in China compulsorily implemented enslaving education and infringed on the liberty of thought and right to education. In order to safeguard the colonial rule and obliterate the national awareness and rebellious spirit of the Chinese people, the Japanese invaders adopted the guideline of “war of ideas” and the policy of assimilation and conducted compulsory enslaving education of the people in the occupied areas. The Japanese puppet regime and traitor’s organization, namely, the New People Association was “in charge of enslaving the Chinese people mentally in incredibly mean methods under the guidance of the Japanese advisers. The most widespread obscene behaviors under the sun, such as slandering, cheating, blackmailing, extorting, corruption, fighting, excruciation, horror making, poisoning, prostitution, and evil deeds were propagated in such mechanisms dedicated to destroying the Chinese people’s morality and shaking their faith.”1

viii. The Japanese invaders in China forced the indigenous people to migrate and deprived them of the right to choose their residence places. With the aim to cut off the contact of the armed forces in Northeast China against Japan with the local people, the Japanese invaders not merely burnt all the indigenous residence and made large quantities of “depopulated zones”, but also forced the farmers living scattered in the areas of anti-Japanese armed forces to leave their indigenous residence and move to the so-called “group inhabited areas”, popularly called “human sty ” rigidly controlled by the Japanese military police and secret agents. During 1937 through February 1938, the Japanese puppet authorities established 170 “group inhabited areas” in Huanan County. In implementing the policy of “incorporative households”, the Japanese army burnt more than 120 villages, burnt or pulled down more than 24,000 houses, killed, froze and starved more than 13,000 people to death, desolated land of more than 2,100 mu (about 1,400 hectares), and slaughtered more than 4,800 domestic animals. Hezhen people originally had a small population, only about 2,500-3,000 in the early Republic of China, which rapidly dropped during the implementation of the policy of “incorporative households”. By the liberation of Northeast China,3only more than 300 people of Hezhen nationality were left and endangered.

ix. The Japanese invaders in China exported armed migrants and infringed on the national collective rights. To permanently occupy the Chinese territory, the Japanese government formulated the “One million Households’ Migration Plan in 20 Years” in an attempt to change the nationality structure of population and the land-ownership and turn Northeast China into the extension of the Japanese territory through large-scale immigration and colonization. By the time when Japan surrendered, about 318,000 people of 106,000 households had immigrated to Northeast China and 1,131 immigration villages had been established.        The Japanese immigration destroyed the former village organizational structure of the rural areas in Northeast China and brought direct impact upon the production and life of the local farmers.

Innumerable irrefutable facts proved that the Japanese invaders hurled the basic human rights of the Chinese people’s life, health, properties, freedom from slavery, free migration, education, culture, free thinking and speech, etc. under the gunfire and even the injured, the diseased, the weak, the pregnant women, and the children could not escape. The merciless means to infringe on human rights broke through the base line of the mankind, challenged human conscience, and generated the humanity disasters and human rights catastrophes rarely seen in human history.

It should be pointed out that it was the Japanese government and a handful of militarists rather than the Japanese people who planned and produced the aggressive war. “We should not look upon a nation with hatred because of only a handful of militarists of it launching war of aggression.” 1 In a sense, the Japanese people were also the victims of war, whose human rights were also severely trampled. To launch the Fascist rule of the Mikado and the policy of aggression and expansion, the Japanese Army Headquarters implemented the comprehensive Fascist rule domestically, deprived the Japanese people of their rights of free thinking and free speech, brutally suppressed all the anti-war forces, and persecuted the statesmen and political organizations against the policy of aggression. Whoever refused to cooperate with the military headquarters, whatever their positions were, they would be suppressed. During 1931 through 1933, totally 38,982 Japanese were arrested
including 2,238 who were prosecuted. In the twice Popular Front Incidents respectively in 2 December 1937 and February 1938, more than 400 left-wing Japanese socialists were persecuted. Through the Fascist obscurantist education, the military headquarters tied up a large number of Japanese youth to the chariots of militarism and forced them to fight ignorantly as the battle gears. In the last phase of the war, a huge group of young people were bewitched to join the so-called “Kamikaze” suicide attack and sacrificed as the cannon fodder. It was the tragedy of human rights caused by the Japanese militarists.

II. The Chinese People’s War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression was a just war to safeguard the right of nation existence and maintain human peace

The Chinese People’s War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression was a holy national liberation war of the Chinese people to safeguard their rights to exist and human rights, delivering gigantic contributions to the victory of the World Anti-Fascist War and the reconstruction of the international order.

The unyielding local resistance of the Chinese people against Japanese aggression in Northeast China raised the curtain of the World Anti-Fascist War. The “September 18th Incident” in 1931 was not merely the beginning of Japanese aggression against China but also a new stage of Japan to expand its sphere of influence in the world. In this sense, “The Chinese People’s War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression boasted the vital significance of salvaging human civilization and safeguarding the world peace from the beginning. It was a pivotal part of the World Anti-Fascist War.”    
During the four years and six months from the July 7th Incident of 1937 to the outbreak of the Pacific War, China was the only oriental battlefield of the Anti-Fascist War. The protracted Anti-Japanese War of the whole Chinese nation tremendously consumed the strength of the Japanese army, forced Japan to give up the plan of northward expansion, contained the Japanese army from its plan of southward expansion, won the valuable time for strategic preparation of other anti-Fascist countries such as Soviet Union, the United States, and Britain, and indirectly saved the people of other countries from the human rights holocaust.

After the Pacific War broke out, the Chinese battlefield became the main oriental battlefield of the World Anti-Fascist War and always contained the main force of the Japanese army so that the Japanese army could not transfer more military forces to the Pacific battleground and hence vigorously supported the fight of the allies on the Pacific battleground. Considering the overall situation of the World Anti-Fascist War, China also dispatched its elite squads to fight overseas as expeditionary forces. The counterattack in northern Burma, especially, became the first successful counterblow of China’s allies in the mainland region.

In a bid to maintain postwar world peace, China enthusiastically participated in designing the postwar international order and establishing the international organizations. China and its allies discussed and signed the Declaration by United Nations to officially found the World Anti-Fascist Alliance and decided to quickly make the Moscow Declaration to set up an international organization of universality and the Cairo Declaration and the Potsdam Proclamation to arrange for the issues during the wartime and the postwar order. Based on these international documents, China, the United States, Britain, and the Soviet Union initiated the San Francisco Conference to jointly discuss the establishment of the United Nations. China not simply participated in designing the mechanism of the United Nations and formulating The Charter of the United Nations, but also became a founder of the United Nations and the first signatory of The Charter of the United Nations. China also participated in the design and operation of the postwar punishment measures, such as the judgment of the war criminals and the occupation and transformation of the vanquished countries.

To engrave in mind the infringement of war upon human rights, China positively advocated and participated in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights of the United Nations. Zhang Pengchun, professor of Nankai University and then vice president of the Commission on Human Rights of the United Nations, acted as the vice president of the drafting committee and made his vital contributions to the construction of the international human rights protection mechanism with his broad and profound knowledge and traditional Chinese wisdom. 

III. The bitter lesson stimulated all the national governments and peoples to reach the basic consensus of respecting and protecting human rights and safeguarding the world peace

The trauma left by war aroused the in-depth reflection of the people of all nations—why should such atrocities severely trampling on human rights have happened in the history of human civilization? How to prevent such calamities from happening again?

The battle between human rights and anti-human rights in the World War II told us: War is the gravest trample on human rights and we must safeguard the world peoples’ right to peace.

Human rights should be realized on the basis of the peaceful international and domestic environment and war is the severest trample on human rights. Only should we bear in mind the hazards of war and safeguard the world peace can we achieve the practical conditions to realize human rights. It needs the joint efforts of the world people to safeguard the world peace and ensure our rights to peace. The Chinese nation always cherishes peace and has advocated the peaceful ideas that “harmony is precious” and “do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you” since the ancient times. President Xi Jinping has repeatedly advocated establishing the awareness of a common destiny of the mankind on many important international occasions, promoting the construction of the new pattern of relationship between great powers, and upholding the idea of moral and profit and the new sustainable security outlook of shared comprehensive cooperation. He stressed that China would firmly take the road of peaceful development and the Chinese people sincerely hoped to join hands with the world people to build a harmonious world featuring lasting peace and shared prosperity.

The battle between human rights and anti-human rights in the World War II told us: To prevent war from trampling on human rights, we must safeguard the postwar international order and guard Fascism from resurgence. It is the common mission of the people of all countries. In 1945, Dr. Eccher, member of the United Nations Commission for the Investigation of War Crimes pointed out, “This time, the war crime is not an isolated action of individuals due to mental or moral imbalance because of war. This time, the war crime was, is, and will be an action of the people infected with a contagion which is called Nazism or Fascism.” The General Political Department of the Eighth Route Army quoted the above paragraph in a data accusing the atrocities of the Japanese army and continued to write: “For those innocent and kind people, for those orphans losing their loving mothers, for those who are homeless, and for the whole civilized world, we must extinguish the contagion, namely Fascism, as soon as possible.”   The great victory of the World Anti-Fascist War ushered in a new era of human peace and development. Under the occupation of the United States, Japan followed the Potsdam Proclamation and related international agreements and implemented democratized and non-militarized reform to prevent Fascism from resurgence. The development of the postwar international order concerns the realization of the human rights of all nations and the fundamental welfare of human peace. Nevertheless, what can not be ignored is that a small handful of people still repeatedly negate and even beautify the history of Japanese aggression, attempting to dilute or negate the disasters of war bringing to human rights and challenging and breaking the postwar international order, which should arouse the high alertness and firm opposition of all the national governments. We must be always alert to the potential rise of Fascism and other various extremist forces.

The battle between human rights and anti-human rights in the World War II told us: The Fascism is in essence the defiance of and infringement on human rights. Therefore, in order to perish Fascism from resurgence, we must respect and protect human rights and safeguard the collective and individual human rights of people of all nations. The Charter of the United Nations clearly points out in the Preface that, “to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold sorrow to mankind, and to reaffirm faith in fundamental human rights, in the dignity and worth of the human person, in the equal rights of men and women and of nations large and small...” lThe Universal Declaration of Human Rights passed at the United Nations General Assembly in 1948 also makes it clear that, “In view that the defiance and contempt of human rights has developed to be brutal atrocities tarnishing human conscience, a world of free speech and free belief without fear or shortage has been declared to be the highest aspiration of the ordinary people.”     The Constitution of China explicitly stipulates the constitutional principle of “respecting and protecting human rights”, takes it as an important principle in ruling state and dealing with politics, and comprehensively promotes the legalized protection of human rights so that everyone can live a more dignified and happier life.

To safeguard the rights of national existence and all the human rights of the people and advance the just cause of world peace maintenance, the Chinese people have made considerable national sacrifice. To prevent the resurgence of militarism and the repetition of such historic tragedies, the Chinese people will join hands with other nations to safeguard the victory of World War II, maintain the postwar international order, accelerate human rights development, console the deceased in the war, and propel the human society for a more brilliant future with its utmost determination, efforts, and action!

(The author is Director of Center for Human Rights Studies at Nankai University.)