Updated: 2016-07-05 /By Wang Sujuan and Sun Muyao (chinadaily.com.cn)
On July 4, a signing ceremony between Friends of 22 Comfort Women, a nongovernmental charity, and the Nanjing Museum of the Site of Lijixiang Comfort Station was held in Beijing. [Photo by Wang Sujuan/China Daily]
On July 4, a signing ceremony between Friends of 22 Comfort Women, a nongovernmental charity, and the Nanjing Museum of the Site of Lijixiang Comfort Station was held in Beijing, with the aim of bringing due attention to the plight of the 20 living comfort women in China.
Three days before the ceremony, Ren Lane, the youngest living survivor in China, passed away in Wuxiang county, Shanxi province, her last words being “the Japanese government owes me an apology.”
As of the beginning of 2016, there were 22 comfort women confirmed alive in China, with an average age of 90.5, according to Su Zhiliang, curator of the museum. Most of them are living impoverished in the countryside, suffering a hard life. Their health is failing.
“That’s how the charity got its name, and ‘22’ refers to these poor women,” Dr. Phil Yang said, who founded the charity with his daughter, Dongha J. Yang.“However, in the past two months, two of them died.”
Dongha J. Yang wrote an award winning paper on the comfort women issue when she studied at Dartmouth College. She said that she hopes more people will come to know about the issue, and that we can’t leave the victims in the dark.
“The issue is a bleeding wound for every Chinese,”said Li Zhongxiang, one of the charity members and the vice president of Tsinghua Holdings Co. Ltd.“We want to do what we can to make them warm and healthy; their pain reminds us that we must never let the tragedy be repeated.”
In the future, Friends of 22 Comfort Women, which consists of entrepreneurs, scholars and young students from China and South Korea, will prioritize all-round help for these survivors of Japanese brothels, including their finances, daily needs, and medical treatment. Moreover, the charity also plans to finance academic research on the comfort women issue in China, South Korea and Japan.
During the Second World War, Chinese, Korean, Southeast Asian and European women were recruited, tricked or forced into brothels run by or for the Japanese military. Most of them died. Korean scholars put the number of Asian comfort women at 200,000; Chinese scholars estimate that another 200,000 Chinese women were kidnapped in occupied cities or along the sprawling front.
With days passing by and their numbers dwindling, former comfort women feel they have never had a full and sincere apology -- and they are still waiting.