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Japan still has time to atone for crime

By Zhang Zhouxiang | China Daily | Updated: 2019-08-15 07:52
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[Li Min/China Daily]

THURSDAY MARKS THE 74TH ANNIVERSARY OF JAPAN'S UNCONDITIONAL SURRENDER at the end of World War II. The day before is "Comfort Women Day", and on Wednesday we remembered these victims of Japanese aggression, comments China Daily writer Zhang Zhouxiang:

It should be noted that these women suffered more than constant rape. According to historical materials, they were shut in cage-like cells, and any hint of disobeying an order would lead to harsh penalties, even death.

From 1931 to 1945, the Japanese army opened thousands of "comfort stations" that housed about 400,000 women from China, Korea and Southeast Asia. At least half of the victims were Chinese. Only one-fourth of the "comfort women" survived the war.

As soon as the war ended, the victims and their families began suing the Japanese government for compensation and an apology, but it was not until the 1990s that the Japanese government started investigations and admitted the facts in the Kono Statement issued in 1993. However, later governments have since buried the statement.

Further, the Japanese government has never apologized to the comfort women or their families, let alone paid the victims any compensation. In fact its strategy is clear: It hopes to delay and stall until all the victims are dead. The number of "comfort women" who are still alive is about 14 in China and about 20 in the Republic of Korea. World War II ended 74 years ago and most of these victims are now in their 90s.

But the Japanese government is wrong if it thinks their deaths will put an end to the matter. Even when all the victims are dead, the historical facts would still exist. They can never be changed. In the face of the testimonies of "comfort women" that survived, other evidence and records, no one will be able to deny what happened even after the last victim dies.

Aug 14, the date before the Japanese surrender, has already been designated Comfort Women's Day. When the last victim dies, the Japanese government will lose the opportunity of repairing its image, and it will be permanently recorded in history as a government that dared not face up to its past.

There is not much time left for Japan to apologize to some of the victims. Prime Minister Abe Shinzo should do so while he can.

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