Grassroots Anti-Japanese Protestors in China

Enough already about eyewitness observations, commentaries, editorials and conspiracy theories.  Here are three presentations that put human faces on the protestors.  This is a reminder that any group consists of unique individuals, and it is a gross simplification to characterize the protestors as hooligans, police agents or patriots.


A small number of criminal elements at the April 16 demonstration march in Shanghai engaged in criminal activities such as throwing rocks and smashing shops.  So far, the police have arrested 16 people and have detained another 26 for investigation.

A Hubei person named Zhang Jianrong got on top of a building and proceeded to throw rocks, ink bottles and plastic bottles to incite the crowd.  Zhang has been arrested.  He said: "I'm sorry.  I should not have engaged in extreme behavior.  I should not have take the opportunity to engage in crime."

A Shanghai sports teacher named Yin Shiaofeng mixed in with the crowd and led the way to break through the police line.  He took a steel rod rom a repair truck and used it to smash the billboards by the road.  Yin also picked up flower pots and rocks to throw at a restaurant.  Yin has been arrested.  "I let the school down.  I let down all the teachers who educated me.  I let down my own students.  My experience should be a warning to others.  I hope that other people who engaged in illegal and criminal activities will surrender themselves to the public security bureau and seek leniency.

(InMediaHK)  My First -- Reflections on the April 17 Anti-Japanese March (note: this is the Hong Kong march)

[translation]  I am twenty-five years old.

On April 17, 2005, I joined my first "Anti-Japanese March."  Perhaps people think that I joined the march for the same reasons as others -- to oppose Japanese militarism, to oppose Japan revising its history textbooks, to oppose Japan occupying Diaoyutai and other slogans.  But other than those reasons, I have two more reasons.  My two main reasons for participating this march were (1) to make a video documentary of the moment and (2) to understand the history of my country.

I used my handheld video camera to record what happened here.  This can be used for memories as well as historical testimony.  I feel that this is my sole contribution to history and that is why I am willing to do it.

The march was to begin after 3pm, but I arrived around 1pm.

There were not a lot of people around, but I can see a couple of elderly persons looking around.  What they looking at?  There were four photographs of Japanese soldiers butchering the people of our country.  Two elderly man were talking in front of the photographs about their personal histories.  One of them claimed that he was a soldier during the war of resistance and fought against the Japanese army directly, having been shot in battle.  We got to know each other quickly, and the old man told me about his past unreservedly, including having seen how the Japanese soldiers killed people, set fire to the corpses, raped women and children and tortured the villagers.  Every sentence of his was uttered with anger, showing how much he hated the Japanese soldiers.

As someone who belongs the "Generation that knows no pain" who grew up in the 1980's, I can only treat his account as a historical story for which I have not half a bit of empathy.  As another elderly man said, "Although I am not educated, you people have never experienced what I went through."  Still, history is history and things that happened cannot be revised or forgotten.

By 3pm, the grounds began to fill up.  There were men, women, old and young.  I was most interested in two young kids, about 5 to 6 years old.  They wore clothes that had the words "Japan get out of Diaoyutai" and were 'guided' by their parents to sign their names on the banner.  I thought, "What does this demonstration mean to them?  Do they know what is happening?"  This led to another question: Obviously, their parents will teach them about what is happening today.  But school education is also very important.  If their teachers do not seriously try to teach history, then they will be replicas of our generation for whom history is a matter of indifference.  This point is equally important for education in Japan.  I don't think that Japan is revising its textbooks only to conceal their history, but the revision will have a significant impact on how the future generations of Japan will look at and treat other peoples.

The citziens were now ready to start.  Before going, the march organizers led the crowd to chant slogans: "Oppose Japanese militarism!", "Oppose Japan invading Diaoyutai!".  Frankly speaking, I had goosebumps when I first heard these slogans.  It was not because of anything problematic in those slogans, nor the feminine tone of the organizer, but because these slogans had been very farway from me and I am not used to them being so close to me now.

I never imagined that I would stand amongst them and march on the same concrete ground in the same direction.  In that moment, I am no longer me for I am part of history!  Apart from me, there were you and him, we are the present, and we are witnessing history.  In the realm of history, you, me and him are equally important.  This is very abstract, but quite practical.

Those are my thoughts.  I believe that my first time will not be my only time.

(SCMP)  Celebrating the Courage of a Hero.  By Annemarie Evans.  April 26, 2005.

Jimmy Kotwall was a member of the underground in Hong Kong, sabotaging the Japanese war machine, work that cost him six months of torture and then execution on August 31, 1944.

Last Friday, when he would have turned 100, his life was remembered and celebrated at the Hong Kong Jockey Club by his widow, Doris Kotwall, 86, son Lawrence, daughter Monica, and 80 guests.  Lawrence Kotwall, 65, was four years old when his father was taken away from a house in Dragon Terrace, Tin Hau Temple Road, by the Kempetai (military police).

Jimmy Kotwall was a Eurasian merchant. His elder brother, George, joined the underground before he did, joining the British Army Aid Group, set up by Lindsay Ride, who had escaped a prison camp in Hong Kong and fled to Huizhou in southern China.

"Uncle George and the others did anything they could to throw a spanner in the works of the Japanese war machine."  This included observing Japanese ships in the harbour and sending the coded information to Huizhou. American bombers would then come into the harbour to bomb the ships.  George Kotwall was captured, tortured and eventually beheaded in October 1943.

"My father, Jimmy, was tremendously courageous. Despite knowing he would be a marked man he joined the underground after my uncle's death and continued his work. He had a long telescope like Long John Silver and he would watch the Japanese ships from the verandah. He would hide it under the floorboards."

The Japanese took Jimmy Kotwall away in March 1944. He was beheaded on Stanley beach on August 31 that year.

"What my father went through. The Kempetai had strict instructions to torture him but not kill him," said Mr Kotwall.  "A while ago I watched the film The Passion [of the Christ] where Jesus is flogged and I could hardly breathe thinking about my father. His torture must have been indescribable.  He tried to commit suicide in prison ... but they found him. They would have been shot had he died."

When Kotwall was beheaded, Doris Kotwall, who had brought food to her husband, was taken to see the colonel. "He congratulated her on what a brave man my father was. He said he died like a true samurai."

The last time Mr Kotwall saw his father was when he was taken.  "I remember being impressed because a big car came, which was unheard of in the war. Four officers got out with big samurai swords and riding boots. I didn't know what was going on.  "My father sat me on his lap and had a cup of tea. He wasn't frightened. He told me: `I'm going away for quite some time. You're a big boy now, I need you to look after your mother."

There is no mention that the Kotwalls are engaging in anti-Japanese protests at the moment.  I am using my imagination about how they might react if told that George and Jimmy Kotwall died as a result Japan's valiant effort to liberate the Asian peoples from their western imperialist masters and to bring economic co-prosperity to them.