A group of Taiwanese Aborigines was forced to cancel a protest over the enshrinement of their relatives at the Yasukuni shrine in Tokyo yesterday after being blocked by police outside the shrine's gate.
About 50 relatives of the Aborigines, who were drafted into the Japanese military and died during War World II, want the names of the deceased removed from memorial plaques at the shrine because it also honors convicted Japanese war criminals.
When the protesters arrived at the Yasukuni shrine yesterday morning, they were stopped by police from entering.
The activists said police told them that it was to avoid a possible scuffle with Japanese ultra-right wing extremists at the scene.
"The spirits of our fathers and relatives are enshrined at the Yasukuni shrine. Why can't we go inside?" asked the group's leader, independent Legislator May Chin (高金素梅).
"We Aborigines used to be treated as sub-humans, and look what's happening now. We're not even allowed to get off the bus," she said.
The shrine honors 2.5 million war dead, including the wartime prime minister Hideki Tojo and 13 other leaders who have been convicted of the most serious war crimes.
Thousands of war dead from China, South Korea and Taiwan who were drafted into the Japanese army during Japan's colonization of the region are enshrined under the Japanese names that they were forced to assume.
About 28,000 Taiwanese are among them.
From inside the bus, the Taiwanese protesters held up signs saying, "Remove our ancestors' names."
In Taiwan, family members whose relatives' names are enshrined at Yasukuni said that the names could only be removed when Taiwan becomes a normal state.
"Before Taiwan becomes a real country, our ancestors enshrined in Japan will remain Japanese citizens, " said Chang Ming-hsien (
Chang said his group had tried for many years to get their relatives' names removed from the shrine to reclaim their ancestors' spirits.
He said that this turned out to be impossible because their ancestors had died as Japanese soldiers.
"Since our ancestors died as Japanese soldiers at that time, they were of course Japanese citizens. The Japanese government has every right to enshrine them," Chang said.
According to Chang, the only way the problem could be resolved was through country-to-country negotiations.
Chang said that the Japanese health ministry had listed a budget of around ?820 billion (US$7.5 billion) for the families of Taiwan's former Japanese soldiers.
The families have not received anything so far.
He urged the Japanese government to take action over the compensation fund.