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Singapore renames exhibition on Japanese occupation after outcry

Singapore has changed the title of an exhibition on the Japanese occupation of the island after public criticism. The title's inclusion of the name "Syonan," Japan's name for Singapore at the time, had caused upset.

An exhibition in Singapore marking the 75th anniversary of the fall of Singapore to Japanese troops has had its title changed after many locals protested at its use of the name given to the city-state by the then-occupying forces.

Critics of the title said the term "Syonan" "evoked deep hurt" among individuals affected by the three-year occupation, which saw 50,000 ethnic Chinese men massacred, according to historians and survivors.

Singapur Ende der japanischen Besetzung (picture-alliance/CPA Media Co. Ltd)

Singaporeans welcomed liberation by the Allies

The name of the exhibition has been changed from "Syonan Gallery: War and Its Legacies" to "Surviving the Japanese Occupation: War and Its Legacies."

Information Minister Yaacob Ibrahim publicly apologized for any hurt that may have been caused, saying he had received letters of complaint.

"I have reflected deeply on what I heard. We must honor and respect the feelings of those who suffered terribly and lost family members during the Japanese Occupation," he said in a Facebook post on Friday.

But he rejected suggestions that the use of the name "Syonan" implied approval of the occupation.

'Painful and tragic'

"Our intention was to remember what our forefathers went through, commemorate the generation of Singaporeans who experienced the Japanese occupation, and reaffirm our collective commitment never to let this happen again," he wrote.

He added that the content of the exhibition had not been changed, saying it captured "a painful and tragic period in our history which we must never forget, and which we must educate our young about."

Singapore, then a British colony, was captured by Japanese imperial forces in February 1942, with British forces forced into their biggest ever surrender. The surrender was signed at what was then the Ford Motor Factory, which has been converted into a gallery and which houses the exhibition.

The occupation, which came to an end with Japan's surrender to Britain in September 1945, was marked by brutality, with beatings, killings and food scarcity for many of the island's inhabitants.

tj/rc (AFP)