After decades of silence, Zhou Fenying, a 90-year-old woman from Rugao, in East China's Jiangsu Province, decided it was finally time to reveal that she had been forced to work as a sex slave in a brothel run by the Japanese army during World War II.
She is now one of the few known living former "comfort women" in China.
The death last month of Lei Guiying, a former Chinese sex salve from Nanjing, prompted Zhou to come forward with her secret, according to the Yangtze Evening Post. Lei, who was 79 at the time of her death, was long thought to be one of the last surviving "comfort women."
Zhou, who is now blind and living in a shabby village house, was encouraged to tell her story by her 64-year-old son after reports of Lei's death emerged.
Zhou said she was abducted by invading Japanese soldiers when she was 22.
She said she spent nearly two months locked in a shanty brothel with nearly 40 other young Chinese women who were forced to serve as prostitutes for Japanese soldiers. She was eventually rescued.
"We were labeled with numbers while we were there and were not allowed to have any contact with the outside world. We were also seriously beaten if we opposed the soldiers. Every night I could hear other girls weeping bitterly and desperately, and I also cried a lot. I eventually caught an illness in my eyes, and I have been blind ever since," she was quoted as saying.
Zhou's first husband died in 1941 while fighting in a battle against the Japanese army. Zhou married again several years later and gave birth to her only son at the age of 28. Her family kept her secret for nearly seven decades.
"We thought it was a humiliation and a permanent spiritual wound on my mother, so we were all reluctant to mention it. My father has never mentioned the phrase 'comfort women' around me in his entire life," said Jiang Xunwei, Zhou's son.
"But my entire family believes that it was not my mother's fault that she was forced into becoming a sex slave, and that she is a victim who has suffered more than others. Her experience reflects a historic tragedy," he added.
(China Daily May 9, 2007)