• Reuters

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About 200 protesters marched through the streets of Tokyo’s Shinjuku district on Sunday carrying banners to protest a hotel chain under fire for books its president wrote denying that the Nanking Massacre in wartime China ever happened.

Tokyo-based hotel and real estate developer Apa Group is at the center of a furor over books by its founder and president, Toshio Motoya, espousing his revisionist views on history and sitting in every room of the company’s 400-plus hotels.

Motoya, using the pen name Seiji Fuji, wrote of the Nanking Massacre that “these acts were all said to be committed by the Japanese (Imperial) Army, but this is not true.” He also denied stories of the Korean women forced to work as prostitutes in its wartime military brothels, the so-called “comfort women.”

Video shot by eyewitnesses showed protesters carrying banners, written in both Chinese and Japanese, saying “Cherish Peace” and “Resist Apa resolutely and defend national dignity” marching through the busy shopping district. Organizers said some 200 people took part.

They were met by counter-protesters carrying signs saying “Japan is a country with freedom of speech, and you should change China into the country that has the right of free speech as well.”

Both groups dispersed without incident once they had passed the closest Apa hotel on the march route.

Tokyo police were unable to give an estimate of the protest numbers and officials from the hotel company did not immediately comment.

There was no statement on the unlisted company’s website.

China says Imperial Japanese troops raped and killed 300,000 people in Nanking — present-day Nanjing — between December 1937 and January 1938. A postwar Allied tribunal put the death toll at about half that number.

To the fury of China, some conservative Japanese politicians and academics deny the massacre took place or put the death toll much lower.

Apa Hotel officials said last week that the chain would temporarily remove the materials from a hotel being used to house athletes during the Sapporo 2017 Asian Winter Games competition starting later this month.

Chinese tourism authorities have urged tour operators to sever ties with the hotel chain after an escalating row over the matter, and there have been calls on social media to boycott both the hotel and travel to Japan.

Motoya said in an email last month that Chinese made up only 5 percent of the guests at his hotels in Japan and that he was not worried about the impact of any potential boycott.

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