FOR the past 70 years, Liu Fenghai, 89, has had her sleep interrupted countless times by the same nightmare.
“I dreamed about Japanese soldiers with sabers on their backs hunting me like an animal,” Liu, from north Shanxi Province, said.
The tragedy is that this is no dream.
Liu was sexually assaulted when she was just 16 and her limp, lifeless body left for dead in a ravine by Imperial Japanese Army soldiers. She managed to summon what was left of her energy and crawled back home. The ordeal left her bed bound and unable to walk for over a month.
Today is China’s third National Memorial Day to Commemorate Victims of the Nanjing Massacre.
“Comfort women,” were women and girls forced into sex slavery by the Japanese during World War II. More than 100 were from Shanxi and those still alive today are still waiting for an official apology from Japan.
The clock, however, is ticking.
Zhang Shuangbing has been visiting and interviewing comfort women in the province for the past 35 years.
Of the 129 women Zhang has on record, only seven are still alive and, to this day, they are still plagued by disturbing flashbacks of the sexual abuse, beatings and physical torture they endured.
On June 13, 1943, Hao Yuelian, who was 15 at the time, was raped by two Japanese soldiers in her own home while her parents were out.
Later that same day, beaten, bruised and shaken from her earlier encounter with the soldiers she was abducted and put to work in a military brothel to provide sexual services to the Japanese army. She was kept tied up and raped day and night.
“The Japanese government must acknowledge the crime and apologize. I must live and wait for the day to come,” Hao said.
Hao was left infertile due to her ordeal. Hers is not an isolated case.
“Nearly one sixth of the comfort women I visited were infertile because of what they were put through,” Zhang said.
Those that struggled, or tried to escape, were murdered, others committed suicide, and some simply tried to forget what had happened and refused to talk about it, Zhang said.
“I spoke to nearly 130 women in Shanxi, but there were more women in the province who had been forced into sex slavery during the war. I did not get the chance to meet them all,” Zhang said.
Some 400,000 women in Asia were forced to serve as comfort women during WWII, nearly half of whom were Chinese, according to Su Zhiliang, director of the comfort women research center at Shanghai Normal University.
On behalf of the women victims in Shanxi, Zhang submitted a letter of complaint to the Japanese government in 1992. The Supreme Court in Japan threw out the lawsuit in 2007. The three groups of comfort women who tried to sue the Japanese government all passed away without receiving an apology or compensation.
“They are witnesses to an event that should never be forgotten, but we are losing them every day,” Zhang said.