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International relations

Taiwan protesters arrested for defacing Japan's de facto embassy

Protesters demand apology over a Japanese citizen kicking 'comfort women' memorial

Protesters stand in front of a bronze statue symbolizing women forced to work in wartime brothels for the Japanese military outside the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Foundation in Taipei on Sept. 10.   © Kyodo

TAIPEI (Kyodo) -- Four Taiwanese protesters were arrested Monday evening for splattering Japan's de facto embassy with paint, after dozens of others protested there earlier over a Japanese citizen's apparent kicking of a "comfort women" memorial erected just last month.

The protesters -- three men and one woman belonging to a group whose members have been jailed for vandalizing structures dating back to the Japanese colonial period -- were arrested after vandalizing the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Foundation with white and yellow paint to protest "the despicable way" it handled the earlier protest.

The protesters who rallied there in the morning had expressed disappointment that it took the Japanese mission a long time to send somebody to accept their protest letter.

They had demanded an apology from Mikio Numata, Japan's top representative in Taipei, over the comfort woman statue-kicking incident and called for Taiwan's de facto ambassador to Japan, Frank Hsieh, to protest to the Japanese government and for Taiwan's Foreign Ministry to summon Numata for the same purpose.

They also urged the Japanese government to apologize and compensate Taiwanese women who were procured to work in Japanese military brothels before and during World War II, of whom only two of the 58 recognized victims are alive today.

Mitsuhiko Fujii, who represents a Tokyo-based civic group called the Alliance for Truth about Comfort Women, was caught on video last Thursday raising his leg as if to kick the statue, possibly making contact with it.

Fujii's group argues that the accusations against Japan are based on unsubstantiated testimonies of the women without authenticated evidence, and are unjustly used to defame Japan.

The protesters demanded that he be barred from leaving Taiwan, but local media reported that he had already left.

Taiwan's Foreign Ministry condemned the vandalism and urged the public to express opinions in a peaceful and rational manner to avoid violating the law and undermining the dignity of Taiwan.

A local group established to memorialize the history of comfort women unveiled the statue on Aug. 14, in a ceremony attended by President Ma Ying-jeou and other KMT members.

Numata has visited Ma and KMT Chairman Wu Den-yih to express concern over the statue.

In 1995, the Japanese government set up the Asian Women's Fund and offered atonement money and a letter of apology from the prime minister to former comfort women in South Korea, Taiwan and elsewhere.

But many refused to accept the money on the grounds that the Japanese government's legal responsibility remained unaddressed.

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