Taipei says Japanese activist kicking ‘comfort woman’ memorial was unacceptable
Taiwanese government also condemns four members of pro-unification party accused of throwing paint at Japan’s de facto embassy during protest
Taipei on Tuesday said a Japanese activist who kicked a “comfort woman” statue last week was uncivilised and his act – which has fuelled a row over Japan’s wartime aggression – was unacceptable.
The government of the self-ruled island also condemned four members of a pro-unification party accused of hurling paint at Japan’s de facto embassy in Taipei. The three men and one woman were arrested for allegedly damaging the building and injuring its office manager.
It came after Mitsuhiko Fujii, who was representing 16 right-wing groups from Japan, kicked the bronze memorial – an act caught on security camera – as he was leaving the opposition Kuomintang’s office in Tainan on Thursday, after he had asked for the statue to be removed.
“The behaviour of Fujii indicates that he is not civilised enough, and it is not acceptable,” Taiwanese foreign ministry spokesman Andrew Lee said.
“Any act of violence or provocation is not acceptable, regardless of whether the person is a local or a foreigner,” Lee said, adding that the act went against international norms of good behaviour.
The spokesman said he hoped the incident could be dealt with smoothly so that it did not affect relations between Taiwan and Japan, which has official diplomatic ties with Beijing, not Taipei.
But the statue also drew a rebuke from Japan when it was put up on August 14, the International Memorial Day for Comfort Women, with Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga describing its installation as “extremely disappointing”.
It is the first such memorial for second world war sex slaves on the island. Taiwanese, mainland Chinese, Korean, Filipino and other Asian women forced to work in Japanese wartime military brothels were euphemistically referred to in Japan as “comfort women”.
On Monday, around 100 activists and KMT members staged a protest in front of Japan’s de facto embassy, the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association, calling Fujii’s actions “insulting” and “humiliating”.
Four members of the Chinese Unity Promotion Party were arrested after allegedly throwing paint at the association’s building and scuffling with security guards and the office manager, who was injured in the clash, police said.
In a separate statement on Monday night, the foreign ministry condemned the pro-unification activists for “seriously damaging the doorway of the building, and causing injury”, saying it was coordinating with police “to safeguard the property and safety of personnel there”.
One of the party members was released, while the other three were freed on bail of NT$50,000 (US$1,600) each, pending further investigation.
Lee Cheng-lung, who was one of the four arrested, said similar cases in the past involving protests by members of the Democratic Progressive Party had not involved bail payments.
“It is pathetic for our government to placate Japan to such an extent,” Lee said.
The statue has ignited heated debate between the KMT and the ruling DPP, with the Japanese-friendly DPP accusing the opposition of trying to stir up resentment against Japan in a bid to win voters ahead of November’s local government elections, which are seen as a prelude to the 2020 presidential poll.
The KMT on Tuesday called for President Tsai Ing-wen’s government to declare Fujii persona non grata, and for the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association to apologise on his behalf for insulting the people of Taiwan.
Observers said the incident was likely to inflame tensions between Japan and Taiwan over wartime sexual slavery and will add to pressure on Tsai’s government, which critics say has bowed to Tokyo and failed to do anything to protect the interests of Taiwanese.