New evidence of wartime sex slavery set to heighten tensions with Japan


RELATIONS BETWEEN Beijing and Tokyo are warmer than they have been for years, but the publication of new evidence about women forced to work as wartime sex slaves or “comfort women” for Japanese occupying troops could reopen old wounds.

There have been many commemorations of the anniversary of the “Rape of Nanjing”, when Japanese troops invaded China’s wartime capital on December 13th, 1937. However, closer ties between the two countries means a lower profile for the events than in previous years.

Both China and Japan are seen as key players in regional efforts to counter the effects of the global economic crisis.

The Chinese say that over a six-week period, more than 300,000 Chinese were killed, one-third of the city’s buildings were burned and more than 20,000 women were raped, although some Japanese historians insist the number was much lower.

This week a book was published in Nanjing which records the experiences of 67 Chinese and Korean survivors of Japan’s sexual slavery during the second World War to mark the 71st anniversary of the Nanjing Massacre this month.

The issue of sex slavery is a thorny one in relations between Japan and the countries it occupied during the war. While acknowledging the practice, Tokyo has refused to pay direct compensation to any of the estimated 200,000 women forced to work in military brothels, settling compensation claims through a special fund established in 1993.

“The experience of the victims are the first-hand evidence of the Japanese atrocities, despite the Japanese politicians’ attempt to whitewash the country’s wartime past,” Zhu Chengshan, curator of the Memorial Hall of the Victims of the Nanjing Massacre, told the Xinhua news agency.

“Up to now, 39 massacre survivors have gone to Japan to testify to the war crimes. Their exchanges with the public and researchers in Japan would help people have a better understanding of the history,” Zhu said.

The government-sponsored All China Lawyers’ Association published the results of an investigation that uncovered the names of 33 alleged war criminals and two Chinese women who said they had been forced to work as “comfort women” during the occupation.

The information gathered by the group of lawyers incudes previously unpublished confessions by soldiers involved.

It is a reminder that wartime memories remain potent in China, where the 1931-1945 period is seen as a humiliation. The evidence will form the basis for another legal claim against the Japanese government later this month.