Liu Huang A-tao (劉黃阿桃), the first Taiwanese woman to accuse the Japanese government of driving thousands of Taiwanese women into sex slavery during World War II, died on Thursday at the age of 90.
Liu Huang united eight other Taiwanese self--proclaimed former “comfort women” to file lawsuits against the Japanese government. Her death, from natural causes, marked a chapter in the women’s battle for justice against the atrocities allegedly perpetrated by occupying Japanese forces.
The leader of a women’s group said “Grandma A-tao” had waited 66 years for justice, but did not receive a word of apology from the Japanese government before she passed away.
Photo Courtesey of the Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation
Kang Shu-hua (康淑華), chief executive of the Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation, which helps Taiwanese comfort women seek justice and compensation from Japan, described what happened to Liu Huang before she returned to Taiwan in 1945 after Japan surrendered to the Allied forces.
Foundation chairwoman Huang Shu-ling (黃淑玲) said Japan had tried in 1995 to make “private” peace with the surviving comfort women through an “Asian Women’s Fund” in an attempt to evade public responsibility for its war-time atrocities.
She said Liu Huang was encouraged by a South Korean comfort woman who said: “It is not us, but the Japanese government, that should feel ashamed.”
After hearing that, Liu Huang decided to publicly accuse the Japanese government of inhumane treatment of Taiwanese women, Huang said. Liu Huang led eight other former comfort women to file international lawsuits against the Japanese government from 1999 to 2005, demanding an apology and compensation.
Sixty-nine years ago, Liu Huang was duped into service in Southeast Asia, being told she would work as a nurse, but was actually forced into providing sex services to Japanese soldiers, Huang said. Three days after she landed in Indonesia, she was injured during a battle and had to have her womb removed, Huang said, adding that Liu Huang kept all these tribulations to herself after she returned to Taiwan in 1945.
She later married a retired soldier whose love and patience informed a new phase of life. They adopted a child and raised a family together.
The assertion by the South Korean woman prompted Liu Huang to become the first Taiwanese to make public accusations of sex slavery against Japan, Huang said.
During the process of filing lawsuits against Japan, Liu Huang said: “We’re all cherished daughters in the eyes of our parents. Since the Japanese army robbed us of our virginity, it’s not too much to demand an apology from such a government.”
Kang said many comfort women had taken their stories with them to their graves, adding that they had never heard a single word of apology from Japan while they were alive.
It’s truly sad, Kang said, that after Japan ruined so many lives, those lives have now ended. She vowed to use her foundation’s resources to continue to help the surviving former comfort women fight for justice, which she said would be one way to respect the memory of Liu Huang.
With the passing of Liu Huang, only 10 Taiwanese comfort women remain. They are all waiting for an apology from Japan, Kang said.
Liu Huang’s actions encouraged other victims to shed their sense of shame and join hands to confront Japan and demand justice, Kang said.
Huang recalled a moment when Liu Huang showed her a scar on the right side of her abdomen and said: “This is where my pain is, do you know?”
In 2002, the Taiwanese comfort women lost their lawsuit against Japan. From that point, the Taipei Women’s Rescue -Foundation changed its strategy, joining forces with Japanese and South Korean legal associations to push for Japanese parliamentary legislation to address the issue. Japan’s parliament vetoed the -legislative -proposal, but the foundation launched a new round of efforts last year to urge Japan to compensate the women.
Liu Huang’s funeral service will he held on Saturday.
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