A secret communist group was formed within the Okinawa People’s Party on Okinawa Island in the 1950s during U.S. rule when such organizations were outlawed, according to the latest study by a group of researchers.

The researchers, led by Tetsuro Kato, a professor at Hitotsubashi University, obtained some 70 documents, including handwritten reports and minutes of meetings from relatives of former members of the communist group, or those close to them, proving its existence.

The group said that in addition to the documents, some of which were written in code, a number of people confirmed the existence of the group.

It is the first time the existence of communists has been confirmed in Okinawa under U.S. rule.

It had been believed there was no communist group until the leftist Okinawa People’s Party integrated into the Japanese Communist Party in October 1973, the group said. Okinawa was returned to Japan in May 1972.

It was also discovered that the group had contact with the central organization of the JCP.

According to the researchers, in July 1953, Kamejiro Senaga, then secretary general of the Okinawa People’s Party, joined the communists. The JCP dispatched an official to establish a southern regional special committee in November that year, under which the group was put.

Kotaro Kokuba, a close aide to Senaga, told Kyodo News that most senior officials and activists of the Okinawa People’s Party joined the group after the party decided to concentrate on grassroots movements to escape the ban.

Kokuba, 74, said Senaga served as chairman while Kokuba himself was in charge of the secretariat. “I wrote most of the coded documents,” Kokuba said.

The Okinawa People’s Party, established in 1947 by communists active before the war, organized aggressive campaigns demanding the return of the islands to Japan and protection of basic human rights.

In October 1954, some 20 senior officials of the party, including Senaga, were arrested by the U.S. forces and convicted at a court-martial where no defense lawyers were provided.

Senaga was elected mayor of Naha in December 1956.

Moriteru Arasaki, president of the University of Okinawa, said that while the discovery of the documents confirming the existence of the communists in Okinawa is meaningful, previous studies had suggested their existence.

“When I conducted a survey on the people concerned with the issue in the 1970s, not many talked about it,” Arasaki said. “I hope a void in the postwar history of Okinawa will be filled by further research.”

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