SHANGHAI – Plans are underway to build in Shanghai a memorial hall for the International Military Tribunal for the Far East, the Japanese equivalent of the Nuremberg trials, according to a Chinese academic who heads a center dedicated to researching the so-called Tokyo Trials.
Cheng Zhaoqi, director of Shanghai Jiao Tong University’s Center for the Tokyo Trial Studies, said Saturday that the Chinese government gave its approval for the project in summer 2016.
A site for the hall in Shanghai, which was formerly occupied by Japan, is being selected, with the completion date still to be decided.
Cheng said that in addition to documents and photographs from the tribunal, giant oil paintings of judges, prosecutors and defendants, including wartime Prime Minister Gen. Hideki Tojo, will be on display.
The trials at what also became known as the Tokyo War Crimes Tribunal lasted from May 1946 to November 1948, with 25 Class-A war criminals convicted and sentenced. Seven, including Tojo, were executed.
Chinese President Xi Jinping and others in the Communist Party leadership have stressed the justness of the tribunal for condemning the atrocities committed by Imperial Japanese soldiers during World War II.
Amid plans by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s government to revise the postwar Constitution and strengthen Japan’s military, the construction of the hall is viewed as an attempt by Beijing to sharpen criticism of Tokyo over its wartime legacy.
If completed, there is a high possibility of the hall being viewed as an important base for “anti-Japan” education, similar to the Nanjing Massacre Memorial Hall, which was built to commemorate the Rape of Nanking.
China, which boasts of its status among the victors in World War II, has claimed that it has been an important contributor to the postwar international order.
There has even been speculation that the project is part of plans to boost patriotism and build momentum at home to facilitate China’s transition to a prosperous and strong country, as endorsed at last month’s twice-a-decade Communist Party congress.
As a part of the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty, the Japanese government accepted the verdicts handed down at the tribunal.
However, some Japanese conservatives assert that the trials were strongly colored by a desire for revenge by the Allies.
Criticism of the event includes the ex-post-facto nature of the laws that were applied, such as Tojo’s conviction for crimes against peace.
China, for its part, regularly accuses Japan of whitewashing its wartime history and denounces visits by Cabinet ministers to Tokyo’s Yasukuni Shrine, where Class-A war criminals, 12 of whom were convicted at the Tokyo Trials, are enshrined.
The Center for the Tokyo Trial Studies, which opened in 2011, bills itself as the world’s first academic research organization specializing in research and literature pertaining to the tribunal. Among its activities are symposiums that draw domestic and international experts.