China’s last “comfort woman” suing Japan dies

China’s last surviving “comfort woman” who sued the Japanese government over its wartime atrocities has died in northern Shanxi Province at the age of 89.

Her funeral was held on Friday at her hometown Yuxian County.

On Friday, people from Ireland, Hong Kong, Shanghai and Shanxi Province gathered in Yuxian County of Yangquan City to bid farewell to Zhang Xiantu.

Zhang passed away at her home last week after years of struggle against illness.

According to Zhang’s family, in her last days, Zhang still hoped that volunteers could help her continue the lawsuit against the Japanese government.

Niamh Cunningham, an artist from Ireland, once included one of Zhang’s photos in her exhibition themed wartime women.

“This is really sad. It’s really sad for many reasons. Of course for the family. But I think maybe it will mobilize a new movement that might continue to raise awareness of this issue.”

Zhang was the last living member of a group of Chinese “comfort women” who sued Japan for apology and compensation in 1995.

In 2009, Japan’s top court recognized the crime but rejected their compensation claims.

SOUNDBITE: CHEN LIFEI, Professor with Shanghai Normal University
“Though they haven’t gained formal apology and compensation from the Japanese government and court, their brave and longtime actions have drawn worldwide attention on this issue.”

SOUNDBITE: ZHANG SHUANGBING, Campaigner for Zhang Xiantu’s claim
“Her death is a great loss to the campaign for compensating ‘comfort women’. But the pursuit for justice will continue, and I will help their family members sue the Japanese government for apology and compensation for the deceased.”

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