China said Thursday that the fact of Japan’s claim that the death toll in the "Rape of Nanking" massacre had been grossly inflated was an affront to international justice and showed their lack of courage in facing historical facts.
A group comprised of about 100 Japanese ruling party lawmakers said Tuesday that documents from their government's archives indicated about 20,000 people were killed in the 1937 attack.
Nariaki Nakayama, head of the group, which was created to study World War II historical issues and education, accused China of inflating the number of victims for propaganda purposes.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said 300,000 people died in the massacre, which he called an "atrocious crime."
Any attempt to erase or cover the evidence "is a flagrant provocation toward international justice and conscience of human beings," Qin said at a regular news conference, holding up photocopied pictures of civilians being executed by soldiers.
Historians generally agree the Japanese army slaughtered at least 150,000 civilians and raped tens of thousands of women in the rampage in Nanjing that became known as "The Rape of Nanking," using the name by which the city was known in the West at that time.
The Japanese lawmakers' report, which was released after a monthslong review, "shows a lack of knowledge of history and lack of courage to break away from that part of history. It will be universally condemned by the international community," Qin said.
Anti-Japanese feeling over the Nanjing atrocities among the general Chinese public remains strong. Demonstrators vandalized Japanese shops and smashed windows at Japanese diplomatic offices in Shanghai and Beijing in April 2005 to protest alleged whitewashing of atrocities in Japanese textbooks.
Many Japanese conservatives are disgruntled over what they claim are exaggerated stories of Japanese brutality during World War II.
Nakayama distributed to reporters on Tuesday a document produced by the League of Nations, the forerunner to the United Nations, from a Feb. 2, 1938, meeting during which China's Nationalist government called for Japan to be denounced for killing 20,000 people in the attack.
"We have no intention to fan the problem over the interpretation of wartime history between the two countries, but we want to achieve justice," he said.
Historians also say as many as 200,000 women, mainly from Korea, China and the Philippines, worked in Japanese military brothels in the 1930s and '40s. Many victims say they were forced to work as sex slaves by military authorities and were held against their will.
Qin said the conscription of comfort women "shall not be denied and cannot be denied."
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, who is also president of the ruling Liberal Democratic Party, sparked a controversy earlier this year by saying there is no evidence the women were coerced.
Since then, he has repeatedly distanced himself from the comment.