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Shrine Visit Sparks Anger in China - 2001-08-13

Japan's prime minister has visited the controversial Yasukuni Shrine honoring Japan's war dead, including convicted war criminals. The visit sparked anger in China, where years of war with invading Japanese soldiers killed millions of people in the 1930s and '40s.

Chinese history books say some of Japan's soldiers in China were told to "Kill all, burn all and destroy all." Some aging and angry Chinese veterans of the Sino-Japanese fighting say the results were terrible for Chinese people.

Chao Guo Hui, 76, was just 12 years old when he joined a militia to defend his village. He said Japanese were especially brutal in killing his young friend. He said the Japanese troops used a knife to split the body. Zhang Xue Xin is also 76 and from the small village of Tian Xing, in Hebei Province that suffered greatly in fighting. Mr. Zhang said Japanese troops killed a two-year-old baby and an elderly woman. After the war, Mr. Chao and Mr. Zhang researched and wrote a book about their villages' war-time experiences.

Rong Xiang Yi, 84, also has vivid war memories. He was an instructor at an army school and he fought in an early battle at Beijing's Marco Polo Bridge. He was horrified when Japanese troops shot wounded Chinese soldiers lying helpless on the battlefield.

Another army veteran, 80-year-old Wang De Hou, said killing soldiers is not the same as the campaign of arson, pillage, rape and murder Japanese forces unleashed against his nation. He said it will be many generations before Chinese are likely to forget or forgive. He said Sino-Japanese economic relations may now be good, but history cannot change. He said, "The scars will always be there."

The old scars are hurting modern relations between Beijing and Tokyo. China's foreign ministry said it opposed the Japanese prime minister's visit to the Yasukuni shrine. A Japanese media report said China's ambassador to Japan protested that such a visit could "severely" damage relations between Beijing and Tokyo.