Witness recalls trial of Japanese war criminals

Guo Chunlai will never forget the day when he saw Japanese war criminals repent in a Chinese court 60 years ago.

The 91-year-old Guo, then a prosecutor, said, he felt proud to be able to file lawsuits against these Japanese on behalf of his country.

SOUNDBITE (CHINESE) GUO CHUNLAI, Ex-prosecutor of Shenyang special military tribunal:
“We filed a lawsuit against 48 Japanese war criminals. Twenty-eight of them stood trial at a special military tribunal in Shenyang. Many of them were high-ranking officials of the Japanese troops.”

Guo saw dozens of Japanese stand trial at the military tribunal in Shenyang from June 9, 1956, including Suzuki Keiku.

Suzuki was assistant commander of the 28th Infantry Regiment and later lieutenant general and commander of the 117th Division in the Japanese army that invaded China during WWII.

He gave orders to slaughter more than 2,200 Chinese peasants, burn down thousands of houses and lure Chinese and Koreans to serve as sex slaves.

According to Guo, it was the first time since the Opium War when Chinese people tried foreign invaders independently.

The court produced solid evidence for the offenses.

SOUNDBITE (CHINESE) GUO CHUNLAI, Ex-prosecutor of Shenyang special military tribunal:
“On and off the trial had lasted for about a month. All the Japanese pleaded guilty because we had convincing evidence, on which the defendants had signed and confirmed its accuracy.”

Figures show that between 1950 and 1956, 1,109 Japanese war criminals were in custody in China.

Among them, 1,017 with minor offenses were exempted from prosecution and released.

Among the others, 45 were tried in special military tribunals under the Supreme People’s Court from June 9, 1956.

Between July 1 and 20 that year, another 28 Japanese were tried in Shenyang.

Nine others stood trial in Taiyuan, capital of north China’s Shanxi province.

None of the 45 war criminals were sentenced to death.

They received jail terms of eight to 20 years.

SOUNDBITE (CHINESE) GUO CHUNLAI, Ex-prosecutor of Shenyang special military tribunal:
“The result was beyond their expectation because they thought they would have to serve jail terms longer in China. So many of them knelt down, thanking Chinese government.”

SOUNDBITE (CHINESE) WANG JIANXUE, China Assoc of Historians Studying Modern Chinese Historical Materials:
“The sentences were made on the condition that these criminals all pled guilty. Otherwise their jail terms would not have been reduced. We also expected that they could be a living testimony to history, and when they return to Japan, let others know about the invasion and war.”

Both Wang and Guo said, after these war criminals returned to Japan, most of them became advocates of Sino-Japanese friendship.

Some spent the rest of their lives promoting peace.

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