2015-11-18 05:07:46 UTC
The Ryukyu refers to a group of islands south of Japan. The largest island is named Okinawa by the Japs following an invasion and annexation.
From the earliest times, the Ryukyu Kingdom (琉球王国) occupied a privileged position to the south of Japan due largely to its trade and cultural links with China. For centuries, the Ryukyu Kingdom maintained it's strongest economic and cultural ties with China.
In 1372, during the Chinese Ming Dynasty, the Ryukyuan King made a pledge of loyalty to the Chinese Emperor and the Ryukyu Kingdom became a tributary state of Ming China. It was a cordial relationship. The Chinese did not interfere in the Ryukyuan domestic affairs. The Kingdom maintained its independence. The Kingdom cultures, especially court and official cultures, were strongly influenced by Chinese cultures.
In 1392, Chinese clans with the required skills from the province of Fujian were invited by the Ryukyu Kingdom to assist the kingdom by serving as diplomats, interpreters, and government officials. Many later Ryukyuan officials were descended from these Chinese immigrants, being born in China or having Chinese ancestors. They assisted the Ryukyuans in advancing their technology and diplomatic relations.
When the Ming Emperor was told that the islanders were facing difficulties in sailing to-and-fro China, the Imperial Court dispatched several clans of ship-building craftsmen and sailors from a coastal area of China to the Ryukyu Kingdom to build and sail ships. They and their descendants settled permanently on the island.
1400 – 1550 was the golden era of the Ryukyu Kingdom. With support from China, it was a regional trading hub connecting East- and South-east- Asia.
In 1609 the first Japanese invasion of the Ryukyus occurred. This was carried by the Japanese feudal domain of Satsuma. The kingdom was still allowed to pay tributes to the Ming court because the Ming dynasty was still too strong to be trifled with.
One notable piece of this period was that the Satsuma domain's leadership introduced the sugar cane industry into the island and forced the islanders to work under harsh conditions. This period was remembered as "Sato jigoku," or "Sugar Hell." Throughout this period, the islanders were progressively integrated into Satsuma-han, as a part of Japan.
In the following decades, while the Ming dynasty weakened, Japs encroachment increased.
In 1654, during the early part of the Ching dynasty, Chinese influence was re-instated. Good relationship with China was re-established. The King of Ryukyu was appointed by the Ching emperor.
In 1800's, when Ching power was on the decline, Japs encroachments became openly aggressive.
1853 saw the arrival of US Commodore Perry's "Black Fleet". It also was the first time that U.S. military forces committed crimes against the Okinawan people. Shortly after docking, an American sailor broke into the house of an Okinawan woman and raped her. Upon hearing the woman's screams, several villagers gave pursuit, and Board either fell into the port or was drowned. Following this incident the villagers involved in this incident were punished for their role in the sailor's death, and Perry presented the woman who was raped with a few yards of cloth as compensation for the assault.
US Commodore Perry wanted the Japs to agree to open Napa port on Okinawa for trading. Japs told him that they had no jurisdiction over the Ryukyu. The Commodore then signed the agreement with the Ryukyu government, worded in both Chinese and English.
In 1872, four years after the 1868 Meiji Restoration, Japan unilaterally declared the Ryukyu to be Japanese territory, without regard to protest from the Ching government of China.
1875 saw the full scale military invasion and annexation of the Ryukyu by the Japs. The weak Ching government was forced to recognise the Ryukyu as belonging to Japan. Without Chinese assistance, local resistance against the superior Jap forces were futile. The kingdom was forced to severe all relationships with China. The Japs retained the Ryukyu king as a figure head. The Ryukyu ceased to exist as an independent sovereign state.
In 1879, the Japs removed the last vestige of the Ryukyu Kingdom from the island by whisking its last king away to live in Tokyo. The Japs formally renamed the Ryukyu as the Okinawa Prefecture of Japan. This also marked the beginning of a brutal campaign to assimilate the Ryukyu natives into the Japanese culture and turned them into obedient and loyal subjects of the Japanese Emperor. Those who could, leave. Those who remained had to endure harsh Japanese assimilation rules. Those natives who resisted assimilation were ostracized in the most cruel ways imaginable. In one mild example, native students who refused to speak in Japanese had a wooden plate hang over their shoulders with the characters “Dialect Speaker”, referring to the Okinawan dialect. More forceful methods included beatings and murders.
In 1898, young and fit natives were forcibly recruited into the Japanese Imperial Army (JIA) and dispatched overseas to fight in the name of the Japanese Emperor in Japan's war of aggressions.
On its way to defeat Japan, US invaded Okinawa to drive out the Japs. That meant horror not for the Japs soldiers but ordinary inhabitants. The JIA doubted the loyalties of the Okinawans. A military order worse than that of scorched-earth policy was issued to the JIA defending the island. There should be no surrender of any sort. The whole island was to be completely destroyed, including lives and properties. In carrying out the order, those natives who had resisted Japanese assimilation became priority victims. They were massacred outright. Those who had assimilated were used as human shields in battles or forced to commit mass suicide in several ways, all cold-blooded. The people were forced to blow themselves up with grenades or forced to jump off high cliffs. Relatives had to kill each other with whatever weapons available on hand. People in families with grenades that failed to detonate killed each other with sickles or razors, or by bashing heads with clubs or rocks, or by strangling with rope. Those still alive hung themselves.There were cases of parents stabbing, slashing and chopping up their children and then set upon each other with kitchen knives. All the victims were women, children, the aged and disabled. Those young and able-bodied and anyone deemed fit to fight had been snatched away to join the JIA expeditionary forces.
At the end of the Battle of Okinawa, one in four of the inhabitants were killed.
After the defeat of Japan and end of WW2, while still under US occupation, several political parties sprang up in Okinawa, and every one of them called for Okinawan independence. The Ryukyu independence movement (琉球独立运动) or Republic of the Ryukyus (琉球共和国), is a movement for the independence of Okinawa and the surrounding islands (Ryukyu Islands), from Japan. But fate dealt them a cruel hand.
With the onset of the Cold War following the end of WW2, American military presence on the island was expanded and extended with support from Japan's wartime emperor, Hirohito. According to a memo to General Douglas MacArthur from his political advisor, William Sebald , imperial aide Terasaki Hidenari had relayed to Sebald the emperor’s opinion that America’s continued military occupation of Okinawa “would benefit the United States and also provide protection for Japan” and that “such a move would meet with widespread approval among the Japanese” owing to their concerns about the threat from the Soviet Union. According to the same memo, the emperor had indicated that the US military occupation of Okinawa “should be based upon the fiction of a long-term lease—25 to 50 years or more—with sovereignty retained in Japan.”
Okinawa became a strategic location for US military bases. It became a US military colony. All hope of independence were squashed. The Okinawans never cease to yearn for the day when they will become independent and free again. That day never arrived. Instead, they were delivered a fate worse than before, by the Americans.
US officially handed over Okinawa to the Japs in return for retaining its military bases there. This pushed en masse the victims to the clutches of their former tormentors and murderers once again. This was worse than experiencing hell twice. Only Americans would be cruel enough to do that. This is void of all universal values and ethical principles which the Americans zealously try to preach to the world.
After taking over from the US, the Japanese government initiated and implemented policies which discriminated against the Okinawans. The Okinawans have been suffering in silence since. But they have not given up on their independence and freedom.
There was also a protest rally in 1982 when descriptions of Japanese army massacres of Okinawan civilians were to be deleted from textbooks.
Three US servicemen from Camp Hansen kidnapped and raped a 12-year-old Japanese girl.
This case became widespread news only because the victim was courageous enough to pursue the case all the way to Japanese court. Many earlier cases had gone unreported because of special agreement between US and Japan which provided immunity for all personnel on the bases from Japanese law.
The U.S. also stored chemical and biological weapons on Okinawa, and there were cases where leaks from these barrels of biological weapons leaked into the water sources. There’s been a great deal of environmental damage done to Okinawa. There was a case when digging the ground to build a soccer field uncovered some 20 or 30 rusted-out barrels that had traces of dioxin in them.
US proposed to move the US Marines' Futenma air base from a densely populated city in the central part of the island to less populated Henoko Bay in the north. The Okinawans wanted none of this. They want all US bases out of the island completely.
The G8 Conference was held on the island. Okinawa was in the limelight. World leaders came, met and were gone. The plights of the Okinawans remained.
In March 2007, the Japanese Ministry of Education announced that all references to military coercion in the compulsory mass suicides (shudan jiketsu) of Okinawan residents during the Battle of Okinawa were to be eliminated from all Japanese schools' textbooks. The textbooks would eliminate all references to Japan’s soldiers. According to the revised passages, the Okinawans simply committed mass suicide or felt compelled to do so.
This provoked the islanders to stage the largest protest in its history and caught the world's attention.
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination concluded that the disproportionate concentration of US military bases in Okinawa constitutes a “contemporary form of racism.” A special report of the UN Human Rights Council and an opinion issued by the UN Committee on Human Rights have underscored the view that Okinawans’ human rights are being violated.
Two US Navy men were arrested for raping and robbing a woman.
A Chinese scholar published a paper on a state-run newspaper challenging the Japanese ownership of the Ryukyus, sparking protests in Japan.
More recently, in its “concluding observations” on Japan, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination recommended that the Japanese government “consider recognizing the Ryukyu as indigenous peoples and take concrete steps to protect their rights.”
Governor Takeshi Onaga revoked the construction permit for US military base in Henoko Bay. He and most of his constituents wanted U.S. forces off the island entirely, not just moved around.
Japan's central government filed a law suit against Okinawa's governor, demanding he reinstated the construction permit for the US base at Henoko Bay.
Some in the Western media claim that the number of islanders wishing for independence were a small minority. They pointed to the small number of votes a candidate who canvassed for independence in an election had obtained. This is simplistic. There are several reasons for this.
1. After centuries of Japanese occupation, the original natives or indigenous peoples who are descendants from the days of the Ryukyu Kingdom have been overwhelmed in numbers by immigrants from Japan's main islands.
2. They are also overwhelmed by the geopolitical forces aligned against their wish for independence. They would be going against the power and influence of the Japs and the Americans combined. Both the Japs and the Americans would not want an independent Okinawa. For the Japs that would meant a loss of a territory they have captured and held for over a century and a substantial loss in the size of Japan's economic zone. For the Americans, it would mean the loss of a key military base close to and directly facing China.
3. A fear by both the Japs and the Americans that an independent Okinawa may reject them both and embrace China instead.
The dominant group calling for independence mostly consists of Japanese immigrants. Not surprisingly, they call only for more autonomy or self-rule, not separation and independence from Japan. Fate may deal the indigenous Ryukyuans seeking independence and freedom a cruel hand yet again.