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The BBC's correspondent Juliet Hindell reports:
"Nanking remains a controversial subject"
 real 28k

Sunday, 23 January, 2000, 17:48 GMT
Nanking massacre denied

Protestors Protesters chanted their disapproval outside the Osaka conference

A controversial conference disputing that Japanese troops carried out a massacre at the Chinese city of Nanking in the 1930s went ahead on Sunday despite Chinese protests.

The meeting, titled The Verification of the Rape of Nanking: The Biggest Lie of the 20th Century, was organised by a nationalist group and held in a public museum in Osaka.

Some 300 mainly elderly people packed the auditorium, and another 200 who could not get in stood outside.

Professor Shudo Higashinakano, the keynote speaker, said there was no documentary evidence to prove that the Nanking massacre took place.

Some victims were reportedly buried alive

A former soldier stationed in China during the occupation drew applause when he said other soldiers had lied when describing the slaughter.

However he was never stationed in Nanking according to news agency reports.

Thousands killed

Chinese historians say 300,000 civilians, including many women and children, were killed when the city fell to the Japanese in 1937.

The number of women raped was said by Westerners who were there to be 20,000, and there were widespread accounts of civilians being hacked to death.

The Osaka conference, organised by the Society to Correct the Biased Display of War-Related Materials, was apparently setting out to prove that accounts of the massacre had been grossly exaggerated.

It believes the events in Nanking were part of a war and that soldiers, not civilians, were killed.

Angry protests

The meeting has been strongly criticised by massacre survivors and the Chinese Government, which urged Japan earlier in the week to prevent it from taking place.

"The massacre is an atrocity by the Japanese militarists against the Chinese people," Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhu Bangzao said.

The Osaka International Peace Centre, where the conference took place, refused to ban the meeting "in the spirit of free speech and assembly, which is guaranteed by the constitution".

I still have wounds on my body - can you deny that?
Nanking Survivor

About 100 protesters, mostly Chinese and Japanese, waved banners outside the centre with slogans such as "Nanking is an undeniable fact".

Survivors of the massacre, some in tears, gathered in Nanking to denounce the meeting, according to Chinese state television.

"I still have wounds on my body, wounds on my face, wounds on my legs. Can you deny that?" said one survivor, Liu Xiuying.

A Peace Centre official pointed out to the Associated Press that the centre, which receives some funding from local governments, has exhibitions on Japanese war time atrocities.

The society itself said it was shocked by the protests because its aim was only to investigate the facts.

The society doesn't represent the government of Japan's view
Ministry of Foreign Affairs

The Japanese Government has distanced itself from the claims made at the conference.

"They certainly don't represent the government of Japan's view, nor do they represent the view of perhaps the majority of Japanese people" said Sadaaki Numata, of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The BBC's correspondent in Tokyo, Juliet Hindell, says the incident reflects Japan's difficulty to face up to some of the dark periods of its history.

Many people are ignorant of the facts of the Nanking massacre she says, as it has only recently been mentioned in school history text books.

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See also:
27 Nov 98 |  World
Scarred by history: The Rape of Nanking
20 Jan 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Row over Nanking massacre 'lie'
22 Sep 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Japan rules out war compensation
27 Nov 98 |  Asia-Pacific
Jiang: Japan ties 'more important' than history

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