Taiwan civic groups demand Japan compensate ex-comfort women

A coalition of legislators, college students and women rights groups staged a protest outside Japan's de facto mission in Taiwan on Wednesday, demanding the Japanese government properly apologize and compensate former so-called "comfort women" forced into wartime sexual servitude.

Chanting "Japan apologize, compensate" and "Japan distorts history," about 100 protesters gathered outside the Interchange Association, which is responsible for bilateral relations in the absence of diplomatic ties, to mark International Comfort Women Memorial Day.

They demanded that Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, with parliamentary backing of his remarks, publicly apologize to the former comfort women and offer them or their families proper compensation.

They said the Japanese government should admit it did coerce women into sexual servitude before and during World War II and legislate against what they called "all distorted remarks about comfort women."

Protesters, most of them university students, performed a skit condemning Japanese politicians for what they called improper comments on comfort women, including those by Osaka Mayor Toru Hashimoto who caused an uproar in May when he reportedly said the comfort women system was "necessary" to maintain discipline among Japanese soldiers during wartime.

Hashimoto later insisted his remarks were misinterpreted by the media to suggest he himself thought it was necessary for soldiers to use women for sexual purposes in wars when he really meant to said it was deemed necessary at the time,.

Taipei Women's Rescue Foundation Chief Executive Officer Kang Shu-hua said there are only six former comfort women alive in Taiwan and their average age is 88 years old.

"Our foundation will continue the campaign until the Japanese government makes proper apology and compensation to those grandmothers (comfort women)," she said. "If they don't comply, we will come here every year."

While a representative of the Interchange Association accepted their petition letter, protesters demanded a higher-ranking officer.

Before departing, protesters threw their white masks symbolizing hypocrisy of Japanese politicians into the compound of the association, which was cordoned off by security personnel and barricades.