Last ‘Comfort Woman’ in China Who Sued the Japanese Government Dies at Age 90
China’s last surviving “comfort woman” who sued the Japanese government for her sexual enslavement during the second world war has passed away on Saturday.
Without ever achieving justice for the crimes committed against her and thousands of other Chinese victims of the Imperial Japanese Army, Huang Youliang died in her home in the village of Yidui in Hainan, China, SCMP reports. She was 90 years old.
According to Hong Kong History Watch representative Mei Li, Huang’s death left China with “no witness who is willing to speak for this part of history”.
“Her willingness to share her darkest days was because she wanted some justice,” Li was quoted as saying.
Lu Guozhong, a former employee of the Chinese embassy in Tokyo, agrees, stating that China had probably lost the last person willing to “stand up as a ‘comfort woman’ witness”.
“The rest of the ‘comfort women’ may have decided not to sue before because they did not want to make their experience public. Many of them are very old and had very little education. It would, therefore, be difficult to ask them to step up to talk about this part of the history,” Lu said.
“One less witness means our future generations will feel more distance in understanding the Sino-Japanese relationship.”
Huang was among the 24 Chinese comfort women who took the Japanese government to court for the psychological and physical sufferings they endured during the war.
Huang was only 15 years old when she was first raped by Japanese invaders who arrived in her hometown in October 1941. She eventually ended up in a brothel and served as a sex slave for Japanese soldiers for two years.
Huang and seven other comfort women filed a court case against the Japanese government in Tokyo in July 2001. Her group demanded a compensation of 24 million yen ($217, 000) and a formal apology from the government.
While the Tokyo court recognized that the women were indeed kidnapped and raped during the war, it ruled then that individuals had no right to sue the Japanese government and that they no longer have any right to pursue compensation as it already expired.
“Mother was always murmuring about the lawsuit. She felt unfulfilled about the case,” Huang’s son, Hu Yaqian, was quoted as saying.
After Huang’s death, there are now only 14 registered Chinese comfort women.
Based on testimonies, young women in occupied territories before and during World War II were abducted from their homes and then forced into sexual slavery. A majority of the women were from Korea, China, and the Philippines.
In Korea, the last surviving comfort women have become public figures, where they are referred to as halmoni, the affectionate term for “grandmother”. A nursing home, called House of Sharing, was even built for former comfort women in the country.
Currently, China is still at the testimony collection stage, particularly through the China Comfort Women Issue Research Center at Shanghai Normal University, which sometimes collaborates with Korean researchers.