Petition # 312: Full history of World Heritage Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution.
His Excellency Yoshihide Suga,
Prime Minister of Japan.
The Hague, 10 August 2021
Subject: Full history of World Heritage Sites of Japan’s Meiji Industrial Revolution.
The World Heritage Committee (WHC) decided to inscribe the Sites of Meiji Industrial Revolution on the World Heritage List in July 2015. These sites were recognized for representing the first successful transfer of industrialization from the West to a non-Western country. The sites include several sites where during World War Two Dutch Prisoners of War (POW) were forced as slaves to work under harsh conditions. The Foundation of Japanese Honorary Debts objected to the inscription but was not successful in preventing the decision by the WHC.
However, the WHC recommended that Japan would prepare an interpretive strategy for presentation of the property which allows an understanding of the full history of each site. The Japanese representative promised that Japan would take specific measures to respond to the WHC’s recommendations.
The State of Conservation reports that Japan purposefully distorts the letter and spirit of the 2015 promises. In 2017 and 2018 the WHC requested Japan to fully implement its promises, but Japan failed again. The Industrial Heritage Information Centre opened in 2020 presents a one-sided interpretation of the site’s history. Completely ignoring the historical facts. The Information Centre distort history by exclusively presenting selective “testimonies” from former Japanese residents of Hashima denying any discrimination or abuse at the site. The fact that among others more then 4.000 Dutch Prisoners of War worked as slave laborers are totally ignored. They had no choice: they were forced in fact enslaved. Their lives had no value!
You should be ashamed that representatives of Japan agree to an interpretive strategy to allow an understanding of the full history of each site, but in practice ignore these promises, distorting historic events. The displeasure of the WHC in strongly regretting that Japan has not fully implemented its recommendations requires immediate action. Would ask you to interfere and instruct Japan’s representative at the forthcoming World Heritage Meeting to follow best international practices on the interpretation of the full history of the sites but also involving the industrial companies and coal mines who employed Dutch POW’s during World War Two.
On behalf of the Foundation of Japanese Honorary Debts.
J.F. van Wagtendonk