Staff writer OSAKA — Claims by Chinese and Western historians that hundreds of thousands of people were raped and murdered by the Imperial Japanese Army in Nanjing are undocumented and exaggerated, participants in symposium here Sunday claimed as protesters rallied outside. “There is no proof of large-scale rape and murder by the Japanese army when it entered Nanjing in December 1937, and certainly not the 200,000 or 300,000 figure mentioned in Japanese textbooks or by Chinese and Western historians,” said Asia University professor Shuzo Higashinaka, the keynote speaker. Titled “The Verification of the Rape of Nanking: The Biggest Lie of the 20th Century,” the controversial symposium, held at Osaka International Peace Center, was sponsored by the Osaka-based Society to Correct the Biased Display of War-Related Materials. Meanwhile, Chinese students and about 100 members of the Peace Osaka Citizens’ Network, which comprises some 20 antiwar groups, protested the event. by sending letters to the Osaka International Peace Center, which is jointly funded by the municipal and prefectural governments. They claimed that “denying historical facts would destroy the foundation of Japan’s friendship and mutual trust with China and other Asian nations.” The symposium has drawn international criticism. “We did have consultations with the Chinese Consulate in Osaka in late December, explaining to them what we were doing,” said Kunihiro Matsubara, secretary general of the peace center. “Although there was pressure to cancel the event, it would have been a violation of the participants’ constitutional right to freedom of expression had we done so,” Matsubara said. The central themes of the symposium were that it was physically impossible for the Japanese army to have killed hundreds of thousands of people, and that even if it did, no evidence exists to verify it. Higashinaka said his own research, including videotaped testimony of former Japanese army officials who were there at the time, indicated claims that 200,000 to 300,000 people died are false and did not appear until many years afterward. He added that foreigners living in the area at the time make no mention of such large-scale killing. Takumi Aoki, who heads the group trying to revise Japan’s war history, said there were plans for similar revisionist events again. , possibly at the Osaka International Peace Center.