Japan’s New Start: Expectations Rising to Open Era of Regional Cooperation
September 16, 2009

…The new Japanese leader vowed not to visit the Yasukuni Shrine where 14 Class-A war criminals lie dead, and set up a new national war memorial. He also said Japan would apologize and make proper compensation for the “comfort women” of wartime sex slaves.

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Justice, Compensation Remain Elusive for ‘Comfort Women’ in Philippines
August 29, 2009

By JANESS ANN J. ELLAO
Bulatlat.com

MANILA — Almost seven decades have passed since Japan surrendered and marked the end of the second world war. More than one decade has passed since Gabriela Women’s Party filed House Resolution No. 124 to seek justice and compensation for comfort women, Filipinas who were used as sex slaves by the Japanese Imperial Army. Today, justice remains elusive.

In a speech prepared by Gabriela Rep. Luzviminda Ilagan on Aug. 17, she emphasized why these comfort women would never forget the horrors of the war. “Many of them were barely in their teens when the Japanese Imperial Army occupied the islands of the country. Some were as young as 13 or 14 years old when the Japanese soldiers took them from their homes and forced them to become sex slaves,” Ilagan stated in her manifestation.

Narcisa Claveria, one of the lolas who came to the House of Representatives last Aug. 17, was one such comfort woman. Her memory still sharp, the 79-year-old Lola Narcisa recounted everything that she went through in the hands of the Japanese soldiers who raped her repeatedly every night.

Japan has been criticized by the international community for its “irresponsible” handling of the cases of the comfort women. In Ilagan’s speech, she mentioned that Japan has recently expressed its desire to retract the apology of then Chief Cabinet secretary Yohei Kana in 1993 for the ordeal of the women victims.

Ilagan said the Japanese government claims that they have no obligation to provide compensation to the women victims since it was already settled when the San Francisco Treaty and other bilateral treaties were signed.The San Franciso Treaty, signed on Sept. 8, 1951 by 49 nations, served to officially end World War II, to end Japan’s position as an imperial power and to allocate compensation to allied civilians and former prisoners.

As a response to the international pressure, the Japanese government founded the Asian Women’s Fund that collected “sympathy money” from their citizens; the drived ended in March 2007. “But this is obviously only to evade its legal responsibilities as a state in addressing the cases of the comfort women,” Ilagan said.

“This is not simply about the money. It is about stolen innocence. It is about being treated as nothing more than instruments of pleasure,” Ilagan pointed out.

Gabriela Women’s Party authored House Resolution No. 124 with an objective to restore the dignity and honor of the comfort women. But remains pending in Congress.

In the meantime, the lolas are dying. Francisca Acido, known to her family and friends as Lola Kikay, is the 63rd Filipino comfort woman to die. Lola Kikay was one of the Filipino comfort women who braved social discrimination and stigma to seek justice for the crime committed against them.

“About 60,000 of the 200,000 Japanese sex slaves all over Asia survived their ordeal and about a thousand are still alive,” Ilagan said. “It is criminal if they died without receiving any justice.”

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Congressional visit
August 13, 2009

U.S. Representative Michael Honda of California, left, visits yesterday the House of Sharing in Gwangju, Gyeonggi, a home for surviving comfort women who were forced into sex slavery by the Japanese colonial army during World War II. Honda played a leading role the 2007 unanimous adoption of a resolution by U.S. House of Representatives urging the Japanese government to make an official apology to the comfort women and to take responsibility for its action. [YONHAP]

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Hidden misery of Mao’s slave teenage brides
August 2, 2009

The girls were sent to populate Xinjiang, still the scene of ethnic violence
THE film’s title, 8,000 Girls Ascend the Heavenly Mountain, suggests that Chinese audiences will see a tale of joy when it is aired on television this autumn.

It dramatises the lives of thousands of girls aged 13 to 19 who went to China’s remote far west in the 1950s to follow soldiers sent to colonise the turbulent Muslim region.

In real life it was a trip to purgatory. As shooting for the film unfolds in Beijing under the watchful gaze of party censors, an astonishing story of mass deception, forced marriages and suicides has come to light.

Elderly women have come forward to tell how they were lured to China’s new frontier by false promises of training and education – only to find themselves locked in barracks and coerced into marrying soldiers.

Chinese journalists have also discovered that Chairman Mao Tse-tung approved the dispatch of 900 prostitutes from the brothels of Shanghai to undergo “thought reform” at the hands of the troops.

Thousands of war widows were also conscripted to go forth and multiply in the desert with new husbands from the People’s Liberation Army.

It casts new light on the leadership’s determination to occupy and populate the far west, known as Xinjiang, in the early 1950s. Ethnic conflict between Chinese and the Uighur Muslim population has flared ever since. The area recently witnessed its worst riots since an insurrection in 1997.

The stoical endurance of hundreds of thousands of Chinese settlers has rarely been described in such bleak terms as in the accounts of the 8,000 women from Hunan province collected by Lu Yiping, an author. He spent five years tracing the survivors of that naive pilgrimage, simple rural girls infused with the idealism of the “new China”.

“There were 200,000 soldiers in Xinjiang and only a handful had wives. So from 1949 to 1954 the military authorities, hushing up their real motive, recruited 40,000 women from all over China,” he said.

“They were told that they would go to Russian-language schools, work in factories or drive tractors on farms. Marriage was never mentioned,” said Lu in an interview published on the Baidu.com website.

The first shock for the Hunan girls came after a long journey to the west by lorry. They received a military lecture which was not about Soviet studies or engineering but “revolutionary marriage”.

Then they were sent to barracks scattered across the region. One group of 20 girls, who found themselves with a regiment of 1,000 men, hastily married the 20 most senior officers within days of their arrival.

Xiao Yequn, who was 15 at the time, refused to marry a 26-year-old political commissar named Wang Fumin. “When I found out he was nine years older than me I was unwilling to be his wife,” she recalled.

“He immediately took out his pistol and put a bullet in the chamber. I dared not resist and the next year we got married.”

Xiao’s story is among several published by the state media this year as the nation prepares to celebrate 60 years since “liberation” on October 1, 1949.

“We were greeted by the military commander, Wang Zhen, who told us, ‘Comrades, you must prepare to bury your bones in Xinjiang’,” remembered Dai Qingyuan.

“Before he finished, all the girls broke down weeping because we realised we would never be able to go home.”

Dai married a veteran “hero” eight years older than herself. “Most of the girls were so depressed because there was no love in their marriages, only obedience. At home we obeyed our parents. In the army we obeyed the party,” she said.

“Nobody dared do otherwise because our job was to increase the population for the army corps.”

The army corps evolved into big military and business conglomerates called bingtuan which built the economy of Xinjiang and remain its most powerful interest groups. And the fertility of the army wives helped to change the population balance in Xinjiang so that Chinese now outnumber the Muslims.

“The prettier you were, the worse your plight because you would be picked by the older, senior officers,” said Jiang Lihua.

Among the soldiers, however, the arrival of women came like the discovery of an oasis in the desert.

“I knew a battalion commander called Zhao who went mad because he couldn’t find a wife and roamed around waving a gun,” recalled a political officer in an interview with Chinanews, an official agency. “His superior officer locked him up in a room where he committed suicide.”

A colonel named Hu forced a girl into marriage and within days she also killed herself, the political officer said.

One woman, who was due to marry a widowed officer 20 years her senior with three children, went mad on the eve of her wedding.

The number of female suicides is unknown. According to Lu, girls who refused to wed were victimised in political campaigns. A few held out to marry for love, finding the handsome younger soldiers of their dreams.

It remains to be seen how Chinese censors will allow the film to treat its subject, given the unrest in Xinjiang and the emergence of these accounts.

At present the script indicates that it will tell a tale of wholesome adventure in which “girls bring vital dawn to Xinjiang and with the soldiers they write a revolutionary page of blossoming and faith”.

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Meeting Silence with Silence: Filipinas Demand Japanese Government Acknowledge and Apologize to Dying Comfort Women
July 24, 2009

New York, NY – The 44th Session of the Committee for the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) convened, and members of Filipinas for Rights and Empowerment (FiRE-NYC), Anakbayan NJ/NY, and Philippine Forum held a silent protest at Dag Hammerskold Plaza in front of the United Nations to represent the hundreds of surviving Filipina comfort women of World War II. The protest, despite inclement weather, demanded that Japan finally acknowledge the systematic rape of the wartime comfort women enslaved by the Japanese Imperial Army, and meet the needs of the remaining victims, who are now well into their 70s and older.

“It’s important for these grandmothers to know that their cause is important to Filipino-Americans in the U.S. The trauma of rape and sexual exploitation is something from which our community cannot heal until the Japanese government stops calling these women liars by denying comfort women existed sixty years ago,” said Krystle Cheirs, Secretary General of FiRE.

During WWII, the Japanese Imperial Army abducted and repeatedly raped a reported 100,000-250,000 young girls and women in Japanese occupied colonies and territories, which included China, Korea, Taiwan, Malaysia, Indonesia and the Philippines. Despite the international community urging Japan to address and acknowledge the surviving comfort women, neither a public apology nor confirmations of these systematic war crimes have been issued by the Japanese government.

“To say that this is a non-issue because these rapes by the Japanese Imperial Army happened to women so long ago, makes it seem as if modern day comfort women no longer exist, when they do,” said Valerie Francisco, Chair of FiRE. “The military continues to sexually exploit women in areas surrounding any base in the Philippines, and these foreign officials and their crimes are excused by the Philippine government to maintain relationships with countries whose remittances allow Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s (GMA) devastated economy to stay afloat.”

In light of the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) between the Philippines and the U.S., more rights are granted to the U.S. military by GMA’s regime, forsaking civilian protections and rights. As a result, cases like that of a Filipina woman named “Nicole,” who was raped by US Lance Corporal Daniel Smith in 2005, was cast aside and her convicted rapist has since returned to the U.S. as a free man.

Irma Bajar, Secretary General of FiRE said, “It’s awful to know that these women, who are as old as my grandmother, are still being overlooked when all they want is to live their last days in peace. If Japan has turned its back on these survivors, and the Philippines supports this treatment with silence, how can I ignore the risk of creating another generation of comfort women in the Philippines or anywhere else in the world?”

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Ex-‘comfort woman’ lives the dream
Thursday, Jul 30, 2009

Ninety-three-year-old Wu Hsiu-mei, right, demonstrates how to use a life jacket during a flight attendant course on board a mock airplane at the China Airlines training center in Taipei yesterday, finally fulfilling her lifelong dream of becoming an air hostess.

It took 93-year-old Wu Hsiu-mei (吳秀妹) a long time, but yesterday she lived her dream of being a flight attendant, albeit only for the day.

“I’m so lucky that I can still become a flight attendant at this age,” Wu said as she walked out of a mock airplane at the China Airlines training center in Taipei. “I’m so nervous,” she said, smiling.

Wu has not always been so fortunate.

Since her parents could not afford to raise her, she was sold to another family at the age of nine. At 19, Wu’s adoptive mother sold her to a small hotel to work as a servant and a prostitute.

In 1940, the Japanese colonial government forced her to go to Guangdong Province in China to serve as a “comfort woman” — or forced military prostitute. Wu said she often had to take more than 20 “clients” a day.

After the war she married twice, but her husbands did not treat her well after finding out about her past.

“Wu told us once that she dreamed of being a flight attendant, but thought that dream could only come true in her next life,” said Cynthia Kao (高小晴), executive director of the Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation, which helps former comfort women and came up with a project to help them fulfill their dreams earlier this year. “But we decided to make her dream come true in this life.”

Kao talked to China Airlines about the idea, and the airline was happy to oblige…

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Parliament lesson for school pupils
Thursday 30th July 2009

PUPILS at Perins School in Alresford got an insight into how Parliament works after meeting a prospective MP forWinchester.

The Year 9 students presented a case to Liberal Democrat Martin Tod to begin an Early Day Motion on the issue of Japanese Comfort Women.

He told the youngsters how the motions work and discussed the possibility of putting the issue forward during the next session of Parliament.

The pupils want the issue written into the curriculum so that more people are made aware of what happened.

The term “Comfort Women” is a euphemism for women forced into working in brothels by the Japanese military during the Second World War. It is estimated more than 200,000 women were involved.