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Monument for Japanese settlers removed in NE China

(Xinhua)

12:28, August 07, 2011

The stone monument erected for Japanese settlers who died during World War II in Northeast China's Heilongjiang province, which provoked anger and disdain from Chinese netizens, was removed on Saturday, according to local authorities.

The authorities in Fangzheng county, where the monument is located, said in a microblog post on Saturday that they would close the cemetery in which the monument was set up and remove the monument as a result of public criticism over the local government's intentions.

Witnesses said the monument, which was engraved with the names of 229 Japanese settlers, had been removed Saturday morning.

The Fangzheng county government has been under fire a week ago when a microblog post accused the county of spending 700,000 yuan ($108,500) to erect a monument for Japanese invaders in order to attract foreign investments.

The news was extensively forwarded and attracted a huge amount of comments at weibo.com, China's largest microblog website.

Hong Zhenguo, the county's deputy head, denied that the monument was erected to attract Japanese investment. "Our original intention was to reflect on the past and wish for peace," he said.

Many netizens, however, do not buy his explanation, especially those who have taken a hard line against Japan over bilateral disputes. They accused local authorities of kowtowing to money and forgetting the humiliation China suffered during Japan's invasion of China in the 1930s and 1940s.

On Wednesday, five Chinese from the China Federation for Defending the Diaoyu Islands, a grassroots organization dedicated to protecting China's sovereignty over the Diaoyu Islands in the East China Sea, poured red paint on the monument and tried to smash it with hammers.

Song Huaduo, one of the five men, urged the county government to apologize to the whole nation.

They were briefly detained by local police afterwards.

The term "Japanese settlers" is applied to those Japanese who came to Northeast China after 1905.

After Japan surrendered in 1945, many of the settlers tried to return to their country. However, due to long journey back to Japan and spread of epidemics, more than 5,000 Japanese settlers died in Fangzheng county, according to Wang Weixin, director of the foreign affairs office of Fangzheng county government.

"Their remains were collected by local people and buried," he said.

In 1963, a cemetery, approved by the late premier Zhou Enlai, was established in the county for the Japanese.

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