TOKYO — A fast-growing Japanese hotel chain is facing criticism over a book penned by the chain's owner that says the Rape of Nanking was fabricated.
APA Group, a Tokyo-based land developer and operator of 400-plus hotels, drew fire for spreading the revisionist views of company president Toshio Motoya by putting the books in hotel guestrooms and also selling them. China has lodged a complaint, but APA says it stands by its owner's views.
The issue is the latest flap between the Asian neighbors over unhealed wounds from Japan's aggression before and during World War II. It follows a diplomatic row with South Korea over a statue representing "comfort women" who were used for sex in military-linked wartime brothels.
The issue surfaced this week when contributors KatAndSid posted a video on a social networking site describing the English version of "The Real History of Japan: Theoretical Modern History II," a book Motoya wrote under the penname Seiji Fuji.
The video shows passages from the book calling the 1937 Rape of Nanking an "imaginary" event concocted by China to blame Japan. The book also denies that Japan's use of "comfort women" involved forced prostitution.
The massacre of Chinese citizens by the Japanese military in Nanking, now called Nanjing, is one of the biggest flashpoints between the two countries. China says up to 300,000 people were killed, while Japanese nationalists say far fewer died or deny there was any massacre.
Prime Minister Shinzo Abe also has expressed skepticism about accounts of events in the city. The inclusion of Rape of Nanking documents on a UNESCO heritage list in October 2015 prompted Japan to suspend its contribution to the United Nation's educational unit.
When asked about the book, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said Tuesday that "some forces in Japan have been denying history from the outset and even attempting to distort it." Coercive recruitment of comfort women and the Nanking massacre were crimes against humanity committed by wartime Japan and "an iron-clad fact recognized by the international community," she said.
"History can never change over time, and facts will not fade away despite deliberate evasion," she said.
APA Group said in a statement that the book is meant to help readers learn "the fact-based true interpretation of modern history" and is not aimed at criticizing a specific country or its people.
APA said it has no intention of removing the book from its guestrooms, saying Japan guarantees freedom of speech and that "no one-sided pressure should be allowed to cause a retraction of a statement."
"We will only continue to maintain what we believe is right, and we have no plans to take any steps" in response to China's complaint, the hotel said in response to questions from the AP. "There should be different views, which we hope would help deepen our discussion of historical issues."
APA also reiterated its position that there was no documentary proof that 300,000 people were massacred in the Rape of Nanking.
APA has expanded quickly in recent years, offering relatively reasonably priced, no-frills rooms across the country. About 5 percent of its guests are Chinese and another 3 percent are South Korean, according to the chain. APA opened its first overseas hotel in New Jersey in 2015 and has since purchased a hotel chain in Canada.
So far, the controversy has had no major impact on its business, APA said.
Motoya is a vocal backer of Abe and is connected with the ruling Liberal Democratic Party's ultra-conservative wing. He organizes lectures and invites leading revisionist historians, ideologues and politicians to speak.
The KatAndSid video, posted this week on the popular Chinese social media site Weibo, shows her buying the English-language version of Motoya's book at an APA hotel in Tokyo, opening it and showing passages to viewers. It is subtitled in Chinese.
The narrator, who does not give her name, says that while the hotel's owner has a right to express his views, people should be aware of his stance.
"People who give their money to this hotel deserve to know the truth about it," she said.
Associated Press writer Gillian Wong in Beijing contributed to this report.
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