Calls in China for apology, compensation from Japan

South Korean policemen stand guard near a statue of a teenage girl called the "peace monument" for former comfort women. PHOTO: AFP

Demands for compensation and apology have emerged in China against Japan for using Chinese women as wartime sex slaves, after Tokyo and Seoul reached a landmark deal to resolve their dispute on the comfort women issue.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang said China would be monitoring Japan's sincerity in resolving the issue - of women in the region being coerced into providing sex to Japanese soldiers during World War II - which has plagued ties between Japan and its North- east Asian neighbours for decades.

"As for whether Japan can do it, if its words and actions are consistent from start to finish, we will wait and see," he added at a routine briefing yesterday.

A commentary yesterday by the Xinhua state news agency said Tokyo should be reminded that "South Korean women were not the only victims of its heinous acts and a single agreement with only one country is far from addressing the comfort women issue as a whole".

It added: "If Japan were truly sincere in its remorse and apologies regarding the issue of comfort women, it would have apologised to and compensated its victims regardless of their nationalities, instead of letting them pass away one by one with unresolved grievances."

Families of Chinese comfort women yesterday also demanded apology and compensation.

"I am very angry and upset, so are many other relatives. If Japan apologises to the victims in South Korea, why don't they apologise to Chinese victims?" Mr Zhou Guiying, son of comfort woman Guo Xicui from northern Shanxi province, told The Global Times tabloid.

The agreement struck between Japan and South Korea on Monday included an apology from Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and one billion yen (S$11.4 million) for a foundation to "restore the honour and dignity" of the Korean victims.

Chinese media said the Japanese government has never formally apologised to the Chinese victims.

Professor Su Zhiliang, director of the China Comfort Women Issue Research Centre at Shanghai Normal University, estimated that China alone had 200,000 victims.

He added that his research team has found 166 Japanese military brothels in Shanghai alone.

"The undeniable fact is that Japan did carry out the practice of comfort women on a large scale in China and, for that, it should apologise and pay compensation too to Chinese victims," he said.

Lawyer Kang Jian of Beijing Fangyuan law firm said 24 Chinese victims have sued the Japanese government for an apology and compensation.

"Japan's actions could bolster the legal case for Chinese victims - on paper. But in reality, we know Japan is unlikely to do the same for Chinese victims as non-legal factors are involved," said Ms Kang, who was involved in three of the cases.

In its editorial yesterday, the Global Times noted the United States' strategic consideration behind the deal: getting its two allies, Seoul and Tokyo, to repair their ties and strengthening Japan's hand in countering China's regional influence.

However, it made light of the strategic significance of the deal, noting that China had risen to be the largest power in East Asia.

"The comfort women deal has little influence on North-east Asia. Japan's easing of tensions with South Korea doesn't mean it will gain more leverage in dealing with China," it said.

In Taiwan, a Japanese colony from 1895 to 1945, President Ma Ying-jeou urged Japan to take the same measures over Taiwanese comfort women.

"The government's stance is to demand that the Japanese government apologise to the comfort women from our country during World War II, to compensate them, and to return justice and dignity to them," he told reporters yesterday.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on December 30, 2015, with the headline Calls in China for apology, compensation from Japan. Subscribe