China’s last ‘comfort woman’ warrior for justice from Japan dies
Huang Youliang sued the Japanese government for her wartime rape and sexual enslavement
The last surviving Chinese woman to sue the Japanese government for sex slavery during the second world war died on Saturday, Chinese state media reported on Sunday.
Huang Youliang died at her home in the village of Yidui on Hainan, China News Service reported. She was 90 years old.
Mei Li, a spokeswoman for Hong Kong History Watch, said 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 said.
Huang was the last of 24 Chinese “comfort women” who sued the Japanese government for the psychological and physical trauma they suffered as wartime sex slaves for the Japanese military.
She was 15 in October 1941 when she was raped by Japanese troops invading her hometown. She later spent two years in a brothel as a sex slave for Japanese soldiers, the report said.
In July 2001, Huang and seven other “comfort women”, travelled to Tokyo to file a court case against the Japanese government, demanding a formal apology and a total of 24 million yen (HK$1.7 million) in compensation.
While the Japanese court acknowledged the women were kidnapped and forced to work as sex slaves, it ruled that individuals had no right to sue the state and that their right to pursue compensation had expired.
“Mother was always murmuring about the lawsuit. She felt unfulfilled about the case,” the report quoted Huang’s son, Hu Yaqian, as saying.
Huang’s death leaves 14 registered “comfort women” on the mainland.
Lu Guozhong, who worked in the Chinese embassy in Tokyo for over a decade, said 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.”
Japan’s unwillingness to apologise for wartime sexual slavery has been a source of friction in its relations with other Asian countries, especially China and South Korea.
South Korean activists estimate there were as many as 200,000 Korean victims, and mainland state media report a similar number for China.
In 2015, Japanese Prime Minister Shina Abe offered a personal apology and US$8.3 million in reparations for South Korean wartime sex slaves.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in has vowed to reject the deal.