Japanese police on Tuesday prevented a group of Taiwanese indigenous people from entering the Tokyo-based Yasukuni Shrine, where they had planned to protest against the enshrinement of their relatives who died while serving in the Imperial Japanese Army during World War II.
The police claimed that their actions were in the best interest of the group, protecting it from a possible conflict with Japanese right wingers who were milling around the shrine.
The group, led by Kao Chin Su-mei, arrived at the shrine on Tuesday morning in buses.
"The police even didn't allow us to get off the buses," Kao Chin told Xinhua.
"We just want to liberate the souls of our ancestors," Kao Chin told reporters. "We expect people in Japan to support our peaceful demand."
The Taiwanese brandished placards that read: "Apologize to former colonies" and "Remove our ancestors' names (from the enshrinement list at Yasukuni)."
"Although we couldn't enter the shrine today, we will come again with ten times more supporters until the shrine returns our ancestors' spirit tablets and removes their names from the list," Kao Chin said, adding that the group will never give up their demand for justice.
The group also displayed photos showing the Japanese army's atrocities committed against Taiwan's indigenous people during the war of aggression.
Kao Chin later slammed the Japanese government and police forces at a press conference: "We always use peaceful negotiations to make our demands, but have been repeatedly cheated by the self-assumed 'democratic and liberal' Japanese government."
The Taiwanese natives arrived in Tokyo on Monday on a weeklong protest tour with three things on their agenda: to remove their ancestors' names from the shrine's enshrinement list, to call on peace-loving Japanese not to visit the shrine, and to urge Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to put an end to his Yasukuni visits.
Koizumi has visited the Shinto shrine, which honors 14 Class-A war criminals responsible for Japan's war of aggression against its Asian neighbors, once every year since taking office in April 2001. Last month, he indicated his plans during a parliamentary meeting to visit the shrine again later this year.
(Xinhua News Agency June 15, 2005)