The Hong Kong government has made it clear to Japan that the “comfort women” statues depicting the Japanese wartime sex slaves hoisted in front of the Japanese Consulate in the Chinese territory is there to stay.
The fiber glass statues, each weighing 32 kilograms, were placed on the bridge near Exchange Square on the morning of July 7 to mark the start of hostilities between China and Japan in 1937. The day marked the 80th anniversary of the start of the Nanking Massacre, which took place in the city now known as Nanjing.
Activist Tsang Kin-shing said the bronze statues were a reminder to Japan of its culpability in forcing females recruited or captured from Japan, the Korean Peninsula and elsewhere to work in front-line brothels.
“This is Chinese territory. Why should Japan care about this?” he said.
The Japan Times reported that a government spokesman said Hong Kong’s police have said the statues would not be removed.
The statues, of Chinese and Korean women, hold white flowers and have their bare feet on posters of Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe with the wartime rising sun flag in the background. “We want Japan to admit what they did, apologize and bring justice to the victims,” Lo Chau, chairman of the Action Committee for Defending the Diaoyu Islands group, had said last Saturday.
Comfort women were women and girls forced into sexual slavery by the Imperial Japanese Army in occupied territories like Korea, China and Philippines before and during World War II.
The name “comfort women” is a translation of the Japanese ianfu which is a euphemism for “prostitute(s).” Estimates vary as to how many women were involved, with numbers ranging from as low as 20,000 by Japanese historians to as high as 360,000 by the Chinese.
According to testimonies, young women were abducted from their homes in countries under Imperial Japanese rule. In many cases, women were also lured with promises of work in factories or restaurants; once recruited, they were confined in comfort stations both inside their nations and abroad. Even minors were not spared.
Statues similar to those placed in Central can already be found in other countries, including Germany and South Korea, highlighting the plight of comfort women.
Earlier this year, a diplomatic row was sparked between Seoul and Tokyo after protesters placed a comfort woman statue near the Japanese consulate in Busan, South Korea.
Kim Do-hee, a 22-year-old South Korean student, said he was impressed by the unexpected interest in the comfort women issue in Hong Kong.
“I used to think only Korea knows this and only we are upset about it,” Kim said. “I definitely believe this should be politicized globally.”
[Featured Image by Chung Sung-Jun/Getty Images]