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Deniers of war crimes should face legal consequences

By Chen Chenchen (Global Times)

08:24, July 09, 2012

A Japanese karate teacher, living in Nantong, Jiangsu Province, reportedly slashed the tires of nearly 100 private cars in a local community over the past year. According to media reports, the Japanese man, who is under police investigation, publicly denied the Nanjing Massacre and frequently screened pro-militarism films in a karate class he taught.

Online fury is mounting, and many are calling for the deportation of the Japanese man. This is reminiscent of the massive controversy in June around Yoshikazu Kato, a Japanese writer residing in China who said he was uncertain about the facts concerning the Nanjing Massacre. Both cases touched one of the most sensitive nerves for the Chinese public.

Currently, besides diplomatic protests and public condemnations, China lacks powerful means to deter public condemnation or denial of historical facts. China needs legislation to ensure certain bottom lines are never crossed in the public expression of historical perspectives.

In human history, it is not uncommon that war crimes become ambiguous and are even denied as time goes by. This is why many European countries have legislated to criminalize genocide denial. For instance in Germany, whoever publicly or in a meeting approves of, denies or belittles the Holocaust shall be punished with a maximum sentence of five years in prison or a fine.

In 2010, Nazi sympathizer and Holocaust denier, Ernst Zundel, was released from prison after serving a five-year sentence for writing books and distributing leaflets saying the Holocaust had never happened.

It is seen as clear around the world that publicly justifying or denying war crimes must be punished. Just like the denial of Nazi war crimes is outlawed in many European countries, denying the Nanjing Massacre and advocating militarism should not be tolerated under Chinese law either.

But criminalizing the public denial of war crime is just one facet. Without clear historical perspectives among the public, the deterrence power of the law could be undermined.

Xin Lijian, a Guangzhou-based expert on private education, posted a message on Weibo two weeks ago, calling the Japanese invasion a "liberation" for the city. It's alarming that such a public figure brazenly made fun of a historical calamity.

Xin is not alone in blurting out historical views that confound right and wrong. In recent years, there have been constant statements to openly praise disastrous periods of history, including the late Qing Dynasty and the Manchukuo period.

Basic judgment and values of history should never be shaken. Chinese society should protect significant historical conclusions from any erosion, with both legal weapons and a solid social consensus.

After all, if the Chinese society cannot achieve zero tolerance toward public expression of extreme historical perspectives, how can we regulate statements and acts in challenging our bottom line?


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