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Hokkaido citizens group conveys case of univ. student falsely accused of WWII spying

Hiroyuki Miyazawa, right, and his friend pose for a photo in front of the statue of Dr. William Smith Clark. (Photo courtesy of the Hokkaido University Archives)

SAPPORO -- More than 80 years ago, on the day the Pacific War began, a college student was deprived of his future due to baseless spying charges. In an effort to pass the incident on to future generations, a citizens' group is calling for the installation of an information board and monument on the campus of Hokkaido University.

    In the so-called "Miyazawa-Lane incident," Hiroyuki Miyazawa, then a student at Hokkaido Imperial University (now Hokkaido University), was arrested on Dec. 8, 1941. He was released after the war and submitted a request for reinstatement to the university in December 1945, but died on Feb. 22, 1947, at the age of 27, from tuberculosis he contracted while in prison.

    Kunio Kitame, 75, secretary of the "Miyazawa-Lane case study group," a citizens' group of university professors and others in Sapporo, said, "Despite the negative aspects such as the laws of the time and state intervention in university autonomy, the university is proud of its history where there was an exchange of minds between foreigners and students pursuing academic studies beyond the war."

    The group was founded in 2016 and has continued to pass on memories of the incident to future generations, including conducting tours on the university campus to trace the case.

    This photo shows a scene from a gathering in which students and foreign teachers deepened exchanges. Miyazawa is on the far right in the foreground, and Mr. and Mrs. Lane are to his left. (Photo courtesy of the Hokkaido University Archives)

    The Tokyo-born Miyazawa was arrested by the Special Higher Police on suspicion of violating the military secrets protection law for leaking information about a naval air station in the Hokkaido city of Nemuro, among other things, to an American English teacher, Harold Lane, and his wife, Pauline. The couple was also arrested along with Miyazawa. Despite that the information Miyazawa allegedly leaked was common knowledge published in newspapers and other media, he and the Lanes were sentenced to 12 to 15 years in prison. The couple were repatriated to the United States in 1943, but returned to Hokkaido University in 1951.

    The university had avoided mentioning false accusations, believing that it's the role of the judiciary to determine whether an individual is falsely accused. However, in December 2021, a special exhibition commemorating the 80th anniversary of the incident was held at the Hokkaido University Museum, in which the school claimed that Miyazawa's arrest was "unreasonable use of the law." During this period, the university has established the "Miyazawa memorial prize," an award for outstanding performance in foreign language courses, as part of its efforts to restore his honor.

    In August 2022, the citizens' group requested Hokkaido University to install an information board and monument, but in October, the university responded that it could not do so. According to the group, the university later said the institution has made sufficient efforts to keep the incident from fading away, including holding the special exhibition and establishing the memorial prize.

    "I want as many of the younger generation studying at Hokkaido University to be aware of the fact that a student's right to study and his dream were taken away because of national policy," said Toyo Okui, 75, secretary general of the group. She added, "State surveillance and the tragedy of war weigh heavily on us even today. Mr. Miyazawa's case holds a lesson for us all," with recent events in mind, such as the 2014 enforcement of the controversial state secrets law, which imposes heavy penalties for leaking classified information, last year's passage of important land regulation law, which allows for the investigation of land owners' names and nationalities in military base vicinities and other regulated areas and the Russian invasion of Ukraine, which will soon mark one year.

    The citizens' group will continue to request the university to install items related to the Miyazawa-Lane case. On Feb. 23, the day after the anniversary of Miyazawa's death, an event will be held in Tokyo for alumni of Hokkaido University to discuss the incident.

    (Japanese original by Kohei Shinkai, Hokkaido News Department)

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