Zhou Fenying is a living witness to the dark history that still
poisons China's relations with Japan more than 60 years after World
When Zhou was 22, Japanese soldiers came to her village in
eastern China, grabbed her and her sister-in-law and carted them
off to a military brothel, she says.
Now 91, Zhou has broken decades of silence to speak of her
traumatic experience as a "comfort woman" -- the euphemism the
invading Japanese used to describe women forced into sex
"I hid with my husband's sister under a millstone. Later, the
Japanese soldiers discovered us and pulled us out by our legs. They
tied us both to their vehicle. Later they used more ropes to tie
and secure us and drove us away," she told Reuters in her home
village in Jiangsu province.
"They then took us to the 'comfort woman lodge'. There was
nothing good there," she said, speaking through a local government
official who struggled to translate her thick dialect into
"For four to five hours a day, it was torture. They gave us food
afterwards, but every day we cried and we just did not want to eat
it," Zhou added, sitting in her sparsely decorated home.
The Chinese government says Japan has yet to atone properly for
its war crimes, which included massacres and forcing people to work
as virtual slaves in factories or as prostitutes.
In 2005, a push by Japan for a permanent UN Security Council
seat sparked anti-Japanese street protests in cities across China,
with demonstrators denouncing Tokyo and demanding compensation and
an apology for the war.
"Of Course I Hate Them"
Zhou -- neatly dressed in a dark blue traditional Chinese shirt,
her graying hair combed back into a bun -- avoided saying what had
happened to her in the brothel, except that she was there with at
least 20 other Chinese women.
But her son, Jiang Weixun, 62, said she had told him they were
repeatedly raped by Japanese soldiers on a daily basis.
This harrowing experience has left a deep scar on Zhou's life.
She cannot forget, and nor can she forgive.
"If it were you, wouldn't you hate them? Of course I hate them.
But after the war, all the Japanese went home. I'm already so old.
I think they are all dead by now," Zhou said.
Zhou said she had served as a "comfort woman" for two months
before a local town official rescued her by paying off the
She went back to her husband of 10 years, Ni Jincheng, who later
died fighting the Japanese.
Zhou remarried and lives with her son, Jiang, from her second
Jiang said his mother had been moved to tell her story after
learning of the death of Lei Guiying, a well-known former Chinese
Lei died of a brain hemorrhage in April. She had gone public
with her experiences last year after hiding the ordeal from her
family for 60 years.
Jiang said he was not ashamed of his mother, one of only an
estimated 50 former Chinese sex slaves still alive today.
He said her experiences should highlight to the world the extent
of the wartime crimes committed by the Japanese.
"When my mother told me about this, as her son, I do not hate
her for that. The Japanese are the ones I should be hating. The
Japanese are those who committed the crimes. The Japanese are
responsible for this, they raped all of the women," he said.
Tokyo has not paid direct compensation to any of the estimated
200,000 mostly Asian women forced to work in brothels for the
Japanese military before and during World War Two, saying all
claims were settled by peace treaties that ended the war.
Instead, in 1995, Tokyo set up the Asian Women's Fund, a private
group with heavy government support, to make cash payments to
surviving wartime sex slaves.
(China Daily June 25, 2007)