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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Monday, February 19, 2018

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Tense China-Japan relations overshadow the case of Chinese 'comfort women'

An estimated 200,000 women across Asia were kidnapped

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BEIJING -- Disputes over Japan's wartime past have escalated between Beijing and Tokyo, but the case of Chinese comfort women is being ignored in their own country.

An estimated 200,000 women across Asia were kidnapped or dragged from their homes to serve in Japanese military brothels. Chinese scholars estimate however that another 200,000 Chinese women were kidnapped in occupied China, reported The Financial Times.

The vast number of abducted Chinese women, many of them young girls, died due to disease and abuse, but about two dozen have survived into old age.

Zhang Xiantu said she was a 16-year-old newlywed when Japanese soldiers invaded her home to rummage for food. Now an elderly widow, Zhang said she could not outrun the soldiers because of her bound feet. In captivity, she was locked in a neighbor's house and was forced to serve as a "comfort woman" for Japanese soldiers fighting in northern China.

Zhang and other Chinese survivors of mass rape have filed claims for reparations from Japan in the past, with the help of Chinese grass-roots activist Zhang Shuangbing. Since the 1990s, Zhang traveled through Shanxi and Hebei provinces to track down comfort women and their surviving families, but none of the lawsuits filed in Japan have succeeded.

Tense relations in recent years between China and Japan have not helped the case of Chinese comfort women, but Chinese courts have also refused to take comfort women cases because the defendant is the Japanese state.

According to veteran activists, China is cautious toward all cases of historical redress.

Tens of millions of Chinese were starved or killed in mass communist uprisings, and others spent years in forced labor camps.

Beijing's attitude to anti-Japanese campaigns in China is "don't support, don't discourage," said Tong Zeng, an anti-Japan activist who was not penalized for landing boats on disputed territory.

Meanwhile, Tokyo's stance on the comfort women has increasingly turned toward denial and historical revisionism.

In January The Wall Street Journal reported U.S. publisher McGraw-Hill Education received a request from the Japanese government to remove two paragraphs on the comfort women that suggested the Japanese military forcibly recruited Korean and Chinese women into sexual slavery.Elizabeth Shim

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