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August 17, 2017

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Lawmaker and aborigines forbidden to visit Yasukuni

Independent legislator Kao-Chin Su-mei and 60 aborigines failed to visit the Yasukuni shrine, where they wished to call the souls of their tribesmen back to Taiwan yesterday, according to reports from Tokyo.

Japanese police stopped their chartered buses at Kudan, about 200 meters away from Yasukuni, and told them to leave, as scores of ultrarightist activists laid siege to the shrine to prevent the aborigines from performing their spirit-calling rites.

Taiwan reporters accompanying the aborigines whose relatives were killed in action as Takasago volunteers during the Second World War were denied coverage.

During Japanese occupation of Taiwan, the aborigines were called "Takasago (High Sand)" people.

"Let us in," shouted the lawmaker, who is an aborigine.

Unmoved, Japanese policemen tried to dissuade Japanese reporters from boarding the buses to interview the aborigines, who arrived in Tokyo Tuesday from Taipei to have the names of their volunteer relatives struck off the Yasukuni honor list.

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Yasukuni is dedicated to Japan's war dead, among whom are 14 Class A war criminals, including Gen. Hideki Tojo, the Japanese prime minister responsible for the Pearl Harbor attack on December 8, 1941.

Also honored are over 20,000 ethnic Chinese on Taiwan drafted to fight for Japan and killed in the war. One of them was the elder brother of former President Lee Teng-hui.

No contact was possible between Kao-Chin and Yasukuni officials, who have refused to remove those names from the list. No ashes were buried at the Shinto shrine, where only the list of the 2.5 million war dead is kept.

Kao-Chin said all she and the bereaved families wanted was to end the enshrinement of their relatives together with the Japanese, who persecuted them during the half century of colonial rule on Taiwan.

The Japanese treated aborigines as subhumans, the lawmaker said. "We were victims," she pointed out, "how could we tolerate the victims being honored together with their persecutors?"

Police said they had to ask the aborigines to stay aboard their buses for their own safety. They were afraid the ultrarightists might clash with the aborigines.

Chen Hung-chi, Taipei's deputy representative in Tokyo, said the safety of the lawmaker had to be protected. "But," he added, "Taiwan cannot interfere with Japan's internal affairs."

On the other hand, Huang Xinyuan, spokesman for the Chinese embassy in Tokyo, urged the Japanese authorities Tuesday to protect the aborigines from Taiwan.

"We know," Huang said, "ultrarightists are planning to harass them (the aborigines). We want the Japanese authorities to protect them (against harassment)."

The Taiwan Solidarity Union, of which President Lee is the spiritual leader, demanded the aborigines "behave themselves."

A spokesman for the TSU chapter in Tokyo said the aborigines, led by the legislator, were "collaborating with Japan's pro-China leftists" to "smear the image of Taiwan through their planned visit to Yasukuni."

Though she was prevented from entering Yasukuni, the lawmaker would stay on to learn the verdict on her case against Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi.

She sued Koizumi for visiting Yasukuni last year. Koizumi was acquitted by the Osaka district court, and she appealed.

The Osaka high court is expected to hand down its verdict on the appeal tomorrow.

Koizumi has been warned over his Yasukuni visits. A recent poll showed a plurality of 45 percent of respondents wanted him to stop visiting the shrine.

The prime minister reiterated his stance, however. He said he pays tribute to the war dead, not to the war criminals.

On Monday, Koizumi said he would make "an appropriate decision" but did not say if he would stop visiting Yasukuni.

China and Korea, in particular, oppose Koizumi's pilgrimage to the shrine as symbolizing a resurgence of Japanese militarism.

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