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Saturday, 9 May, 1998, 18:18 GMT 19:18 UK
Japanese war film prompts China to act
Clapper board
The film's opening, for press previews, has stung Beijing
China has expressed shock and indignation over a new film about the trial of Japan's prime minister during the Second World War.

Beijing said the movie, Pride - An Instant in a Lifetime, attempted to whitewash the reputation of Hideki Tojo who was hanged as a war criminal in 1948.

To China, he was the chief criminal in what they regard as the war of aggression against the country.

The film's makers, however, said they wanted to correct the impression that Mr Tojo was a militarist aggressor.

It was Mr Tojo who gave orders for the attack on the American naval base at Pearl Harbour.

"Sympathetic portrayal"

The film has begun press preview screenings in Tokyo. Its makers said they aimed to portray a sympathetic portrayal of Mr Tojo.

Based in part on writings by his grand-daughter, it questions the conviction which led to his hanging in 1948.

However, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, in a statement quoted by the official news agency, said there was irrefutable evidence of the crimes committed by Japanese troops in Asia.

He said Mr Tojo played a primary role and predicted that the film would be condemned by peace-loving people everywhere, including Japan.

"Bound to cause offence"

China's comments came on the same day that the acting secretary-general of Japan's governing Liberal Democratic party travelled to the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing and visited the memorial to the estimated 300,000 who died when Japan captured the city in December 1937.

The visit was seen as a gesture of reconciliation at a time of improving relations, which are due to culminate later this year when Chinese President Jiang Zemin travels to Japan.

The BBC's Beijing correspondent , Duncan Hewitt, however, said the film was bound to cause offence.

Given its history of occupation by Japan during the 1930s and 1940s and Tokyo's failure to apologise formally for its actions, China remains acutely sensitive to any attempts to play down Japanese war crimes.

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