A video of a disrespectful Japanese man appearing to kick a statue of a “comfort woman” in Taiwan has caused outrage, resulting in dozens of demonstrators protesting outside Japan’s de facto embassy in Taipei, Taiwan.
CCTV footage shows Fujii Mitsuhiko, a member of a right-wing group from a visiting Japanese delegation, appearing to kick and grope a bronze statue standing outside the office of Taiwan’s opposition party Kuomintang (KMT) in the city of Tainan.
“Comfort women” were Taiwanese, Chinese, Korean, Filipino and other Asian women who were forced into sexual slavery during World War II in Japan’s military brothels. The KMT puts the number of such women to 200,000 to 300,000 while the Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation claims historical record shows the number is actually around 2000. Currently, only two identified survivors still reside in Taiwan.
The statue of the first memorial of thousands of comfort women in Taiwan was unveiled on Aug. 14 — the International Memorial Day for Comfort Women — by the KMT and local authorities. Despite the international recognition for the victims, Japan have sought to undermine the issue and have even said in recent issues it failed to confirm the existence of such women in Japanese brothels.
Fujii and representatives from the Alliance for Truth about Comfort Women reportedly came to Taiwan to meet Tainan city councilor, Hsieh Lung-chieh on Sept. 6. However, after looking at the video, Hsieh posted a screenshot on Facebook, where people slammed Fujii for disrespecting Taiwan.
“It is inexcusable and unbearable for [Fujii] to come here and trample on the dignity of Taiwanese people, insulting our grandmothers who were forced to serve as comfort women [by Japan],” Hsieh said.
In his post, the city councilor accused Fujii of violating the statue under the guise of handing out questionnaires to the public. He also demanded the Japanese immediately apologize on his knees in front of the statue or he should be prevented from leaving Taiwan.
Fujii defended himself, according to the United Daily News in Taiwan, by arguing he wasn’t trying to kick the statue and was only stretching his legs, which were stiff after a long flight. He also accused the KMT of deliberately doctoring the photo.
“This is the same nasty practice that has been widely used to create fake news in Japan and the United States,” the statement said. “The Alliance for Truth about Comfort Women and I strongly denounce such vicious behavior.”
“Notice someone with a camera taking pictures? This Japanese is kicking in the state of knowing that someone is taking pictures on the side; that is public provocation. This is more disgusting than if done in private,” said one Facebook user.
“How can Japan bully Taiwanese people to such extent!” said another.
On Monday, Hsieh organized a protest outside the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association office with around 100 protesters who wore white T-shirts and masks and held white roses. They demanded Japanese officials, including Representative Mikio Numato, apologize to the Taiwanese government for their uncaring attitude towards comfort women.
The protesters also engaged in a brief scuffle with about 50 police officers who were trying to stop them from forcing their way inside the building. After two hours, a senior Japanese official finally accepted the letter of protest from the demonstrators.
Taiwanese media reported Fujii left Taiwan on Saturday but Hsieh has pledged to bring the case to court and demand Fujii come to testify there.
The statue was not erected without controversy and resulted in a heated debate between KMT and the ruling Japanese-friendly Democratic Progressive Party, which accused KMT of trying to rile up people against Japan, in order to win the upcoming elections.
Ma Ying-jeou, the former president of KMT criticized President Tsai Ing-wen’s government for not working in the interest of the Taiwanese people and failing to urge Japan to issue a formal apology to Taiwan for forcing women into sexual enslavement during wartime. The statue was also called “extremely disappointing” by Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga. The Japanese representative office in Taipei also called for the removal of the statue saying it went againstevery grain of the Japanese government, who was trying to peaceably resolve the issue.
In 1994, Japan set up an Asian Women’s Fund that offered a letter of apology and compensation from the prime minister to comfort women survivors. However, many victims, including those from Taiwan, refused to take the money claiming Japan has yet to take legal responsibility for the issue.
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