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Reading room commemorating Iris Chang opens at San Francisco WWII Pacific War Memorial Hall

SAN FRANCISCO, Aug. 23 (Xinhua) -- The San Francisco WWII Pacific War Memorial Hall has set up a reading room to commemorate the late Chinese-American writer Iris Chang, renowned for her books on history, including Japan's invasion of China.

Chang, whose Chinese name was Zhang Chunru, was the author of "The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II," a best-selling book published in 1997.

Two books of Iris Chang's "The Rape of Nanking: The Forgotten Holocaust of World War II" are displayed at a reading room of the SF WWII Pacific War Memorial Hall, Aug. 20, 2022. (Xinhua/Wu Xiaoling)

With the book, she brought to light the horrifying atrocities known as "the Nanjing Massacre," committed by invading Japanese troops in the eastern Chinese city of Nanjing in 1937.

More than 300,000 Chinese died in over 40 days of brutal killing by the Japanese army during the winter of 1937-38.

The reading room on the third floor of the memorial hall is named "The Power of One."

"Please believe in the power of one. One person can make an enormous difference in the world. One person -- actually, one idea -- can start a war or end one," Jennifer Cheung, president of Global Alliance for Preserving the History of WWII in Asia, said at Saturday's opening ceremony, quoting Chang's words.

"This is Chunru's lifelong belief, and it is also a portrayal of her lifelong practice," Said Zhang Yingying, Iris Chang's mother.

"She is one of the most respected ladies to us," said Florence Fang, a Chinese-American community leader in the San Francisco Bay Area and also the founder of the memorial hall.

The Japanese invasion of China, a chapter of history written in blood and tears, must always be remembered, Fang said, noting this was her original intention when she donated money to build the memorial hall seven years ago.

Inaugurated on Aug. 15, 2015, the 70th anniversary of Japan's unconditional surrender in World War II, the memorial hall is the first of its kind outside China to commemorate the Chinese war of resistance against Japanese aggression.

The Western world has often overlooked Chinese contributions and sacrifices during WWII. Iris Chang once said that "the whole story of the comfort women, the system of forced sexual slavery, the medical experiments of Unit 731, is not something that is in the U.S. psyche," but she believed awareness was growing.

Since its opening, the memorial hall has offered local residents and visitors from all over the world a unique opportunity to learn about the history of China's war of resistance against Japanese aggression and China-U.S. collaborations during WWII.

By help making the Nanjing Massacre widely known in Western societies, Iris Chang made an invaluable contribution, said Cheung. "I hope I can be a footprint behind her, and I also hope we have more footprints behind us, all sticking to Chang's belief."

Iris Chang's mother Zhang Yingying is seen in a reading room. (Xinhua/Wu Xiaoling)

Cheung also serves as the chair of the Rape of Nanking Redress Coalition, an organization of Asian-Americans seeking redress from the Japanese government. "It is this belief that inspired us and drove us forward," she said. "We must fight for justice and make the Japanese government formally apologize and compensate the victims."

According to Cheung, overseas Chinese from all walks of life in the San Francisco Bay Area have held the annual Nanjing Massacre memorial event for 25 consecutive years.

"We mourn the passing compatriots who were slaughtered by the Japanese invaders," said Cheung. "We call on all human beings to remember the lessons of the dark history and contribute to lasting world peace."

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