Abe skirts pro­test­ers at Har­vard

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By ZHENG XIN in New York zhengxin@chindaily.com.cn

Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe vis­ited Har­vard Uni­ver­sity and en­coun­tered pro­test­ers urg­ing him to apol­o­gize for war crimes com­mit­ted by Ja­pan dur­ing World War II, es­pe­cially to women from South Korea and China forced into sex­ual slav­ery dur­ing the war.

An es­ti­mated 150 stu­dents in­clud­ing Korean Amer­i­cans par­tic­i­pated in the protest Mon­day, ac­cord­ing to UPI, bear­ing signs that read, “You can re­write his­tory, but you can­not re­write the truth,” and “Time is run­ning out,” a ref­er­ence to the aging sur­vivors. But Abe skirted the pro­test­ers by us­ing a back en­trance to Har­vard’s John F. Kennedy Jr. Fo­rum in Cam­bridge, Mas­sachusetts, where he gave a short speech.

Abe ar­rived in Bos­ton on Sun­day, on the 70th an­niver­sary of the end of World War II, for week-long visit to the United States, in­clud­ing a meet­ing on Tues­day with US Pres­i­dent Barack Obama and a speech to a joint ses­sion of Congress on Wed­nes­day, — the first for a Ja­panese leader.

Ac­cord­ing to the Har­vard Crim­son, the uni­ver­sity’s news­pa­per, the pro­test­ers held an hour-long si­lent demon­stra­tion or­ga­nized by Har­vard stu­dents that, ac­cord­ing to an open let­ter read at the demon­stra­tion, protested the Ja­panese gov­ern­ment’s “di­rect role in op­er­at­ing a sys­tem of sex­ual slav­ery dur­ing World War II.” Eigh­teen Har­vard stu­dent groups and 161 stu­dents signed the open let­ter, which de­manded an ac­knowl­edg­ment of the “Ja­panese gov­ern­ment’s di­rect in­volve­ment in the op­er­a­tion of com­fort sta­tions.”

Phyl­lis Kim, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of the Korean Amer­i­can Fo­rum of Cal­i­for­nia, was quoted by CBS-TV in Bos­ton as say­ing that Abe still has not ad­dressed any of the spe­cific re­quests vic­tims and ad­vo­cates seek, in­clud­ing a for­mal gov­ern­ment apol­ogy, legal repa­ra­tions and pun­ish­ment of those re­spon­si­ble.

“He ba­si­cally re­peated the de­nial and the eva­sion of re­spon­si­bil­ity that he has been say­ing all along,” she said. “He only said he has ‘ heartache.’ That stops short of apol­ogy.”

In re­sponse to a ques­tion about “com­fort women”, a eu­phemism for the fe­males forced into sex slav­ery to the Ja­panese mil­i­tary dur­ing the war, Abe told Har­vard stu­dents through a trans­la­tor:

“My heart aches when I think about the peo­ple that were vic­tim­ized by hu­man traf­fick­ing and who were sub­jected to im­mea­sur­able pain and suf­fer­ing be­yond de­scrip­tion. We have very res­o­lutely determined that, in the 21st cen­tury, women’s hu­man rights should not be vi­o­lated.”

Lee Yong-soo, 86, a South Korean ac­tivist and for­mer com­fort woman sat in a wheel­chair and held a plac­ard that read, “I am a sur­vivor of Ja­panese mil­i­tary sex­ual slav­ery.” She also wore a mask marked with a black “X’’ that sym­bol­ized the sham­ing and si­lenc­ing of sur­vivors of wartime camps.

Erik Go­rard, a com­puter science stu­dent at Har­vard, was quoted by Xin­hua as say­ing he was “pretty dis­ap­pointed” at Abe’s an­swer, adding that the Ja­panese prime min­is­ter “def­i­nitely evaded that ques­tion a lit­tle bit.”

“I don’ t think he will ad­dress the com­fort women is­sue in any more de­tail” in his speech to Congress, Go­rard said.


Pro­test­ers, in­clud­ing a for­mer Korean “com­fort woman”, Yong Soo Lee, 88, demon­strate out­side the Kennedy School of Gov­ern­ment at Har­vard Uni­ver­sity in Cam­bridge, Mas­sachusetts, de­mand­ing that Ja­panese Prime Min­is­ter Shinzo Abe apol­o­gize for Ja­pan’s sex­ual en­slave­ment of women in oc­cu­pied coun­tries dur­ing World War II.

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