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Award-winning documentary on trials of Japanese war crimes in WWII screens in UK

By XING YI in London| chinadaily.com.cn| Updated: September 5, 2022 L M S


Denise Wynne (left), and Leone Coyff, daughter and granddaughter of Dennis Morley, the late British survivor of Japanese cargo ship Lisbon Maru in World War II, show the letter of reply by President Xi Jinping on a documentary screening session in London on Friday. [XING YI/China Daily]

To commemorate the 77th anniversary of the victory of the Chinese People's War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression and the World Anti-Fascist War, a screening session of Asia-Pacific War Crimes Trials was held in London on Friday.

The award-winning documentary has been broadcast in China and the United States, and this was the first time it's been officially premiered in the United Kingdom by its producer SMG Documentary Center and co-organizer The Media Pioneers, a UK production and distribution company.

With nearly 100 attendees, including descendants of the veterans of the World War II, the screening showed one episode detailing Japanese atrocities and the inhumane transportation of Allied prisoners of war in the Pacific and how Chinese fishermen saved the prisoners from sinking ships.

Yu Guo, first secretary at the culture office of the Chinese Embassy in the UK, said in a video that he's glad to see Shanghai Media Group and The Media Pioneers work together to bring this documentary to British audiences.

"Humanity shines in the darkest time, and this part of history should be remembered," Yu said.

The documentary interviewed Dennis Morley, the last British survivor being rescued by Chinese fishermen of a Japanese cargo ship, Lisbon Maru, which was sunk by allied forces off Zhoushan, Zhejiang province in 1942.

A musician of the second battalion of the Royal Scottish Regiment, then 22-year-old Morley was one of the prisoners held on the Lisbon Maru, and was lucky to escape the sinking ship after it was hit by a torpedo. 


Relatives of veterans were among the British audience in a premiere screening for Asia-Pacific War Crimes Trials, a documentary, in London on Friday evening. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Seeing the prisoners jump into the water, Japanese soldiers opened fired on them.

"It was a Chinese fisherman that changed everything. When they came out, the Japanese saw them, and that was it. That was when they (Chinese fishermen) started picking us up," Morley said in the documentary when he was interviewed in 2019.

Morley died of complications triggered by COVID-19 in January, but his daughter, Denise Wynne, traveled from Chalford to London to attend the screening session.

"I felt overwhelmed and honored to come and watch the premiere, it is my first time seeing it on the big screen," said Wynne, with tears in her eyes.

"If it wasn't for the Chinese fishermen, the Japanese would continue shooting those who escaped from the sinking ship, so I suggest building a memorial for the people died in the incident and also the fishermen who saved lives," she said.


The eight-episode documentary Asia-Pacific War Crimes Trials was produced by SMG documentary center, and has been broadcast in China and the United States since 2020. [Photo provided to China Daily]

Earlier this year, Wynne wrote to President Xi Jinping expressing her gratitude to the Chinese people for the heroic rescue, and firm support for the friendship between the two countries.

At the event on Friday, Wynne brought a letter of reply which she received last week. In the letter, the president encouraged family members of the survivors to further work on the advancement of the bilateral friendship as this year marks the 50th anniversary of ambassadorial-level diplomatic relations between China and the UK.

Brian Finch, translator of the book A Faithful Record of the Lisbon Maru Incident, said in a panel discussion after the screening, "Remember is the word that I'd like to say to recommend the documentary to my friends — remembering what those people suffered and how people went out of their way to save lives."

Leone Coyff, granddaughter of Morley, said a memorial of the Lisbon Maru was built in the National Memorial Arboretum in Britain in October. "We'd like to see a twin memorial being replicated in Zhoushan for future generations to visit and remember the past."

In a tablet Wynne brought with her, she saved many photos of local Chinese in Zhoushan performing a commemoration at the shore and on ships.

"If my health allows, I would love to travel to Zhoushan to meet the families of the fishermen when the memorial is built," said the 73-year-old.