Taiwan's stance on comfort women issue unchanged: foreign ministry

09/11/2018 09:00 PM
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Andrew Lee (李憲章/CNA file photo)
Andrew Lee (李憲章/CNA file photo)

Taipei, Sept. 11 (CNA) The government's stance on seeking the rights and dignity of Taiwanese "comfort women" -- women forced to work in wartime brothels for the Japanese military during World War II -- remains unchanged, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MOFA) reiterated Tuesday.

Urging Japan to face up to the issue, MOFA spokesman Andrew Lee (李憲章) said there will be continued efforts in negotiations with Japan on the comfort women issue. However, Taipei also hopes the matter will not hinder Taiwan-Japan relations from moving forward, he added.

Lee was answering questions at a regular press briefing about whether or not the government will demand that Japan apologize in the wake of a Sept. 6 incident in which a Japanese activist was caught on camera appearing to kick Taiwan's first comfort women memorial in Tainan, southern Taiwan.

He said the Japanese man, identified as Mitsuhiko Fujii, a member of the Tokyo-based Alliance for Truth about Comfort Women, has already left Taiwan but his alleged act is being investigated nonetheless.

Under Taiwanese law, kicking a statue can be determined as an act of vandalism.

Asked if Fujii will be listed as persona non grata, Lee said the MOFA will study the case along with the police and immigration authorities. "If the ministry needs to, it will negotiate with Japan based on facts."

Meanwhile in Tokyo, Taiwan's de facto ambassador to Japan Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) said he will press harsh condemnation on Fujii if the latter is found to have actually kicked the comfort women memorial.

Hsieh reiterated his office's consistent stance on the comfort women issue, which is asking Japan to negotiate, pay compensation and apologize.

Since he assumed the post in June 2016, he has delivered six protests to the Japanese government, the diplomat said.

The kicking incident sparked public outcry in Taiwan, with surveillance camera footage showing Fujii raising his foot several times to kick the bronze statue widely seen on local news reports.

The comfort women memorial, erected on a vacant lot next to the opposition Kuomintang's (KMT's) Tainan chapter, was unveiled Aug. 14 during a ceremony presided over by former President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九), who urged the Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) government to use a law governing transitional justice the DPP enacted as the legal basis for efforts to demand an apology and compensation from Japan.

On Tuesday, KMT lawmaker Wang Yu-min (王育敏) said she has drafted an act governing restoration of the comfort womens' reputations and relevant compensation.

Under the draft act, anyone found to have acted in a discriminatory manner against a former comfort woman, family members of a former comfort woman, or a comfort women memorial would be subject to a penalty of imprisonment for up to one year, Wang said.

Meanwhile, the Taipei Woman's Rescue Foundation, which has long been concerned about the comfort women issue, asked the relevant authorities to find out the details of the statue-kicking incident and bring those responsible to justice.

In a statement released Tuesday, the non-profit organization called for all sectors of society to attach importance to research and education on the comfort women issue, so that future generations have knowledge about issues concerning the human rights of women during time of war.

With such research and education, it hopes "mistakes will never happen again," the statement said.

(By Elaine Hou, Yang Ming-chu, Wang Cheng-chung, Wu Hsin-yun and Elizabeth Hsu)


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