Another voice lost, WWII ‘comfort woman’ dies aged 94

By Christine Chou ,The China Post

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Captured to serve as a sex slave for Japanese forces during World War II, Cheng Chen Tao (鄭陳桃), more widely known as “Hsiao Tao A-ma” (小桃阿嬤), died of pneumonia on Monday, according to local media. Cheng moved into a nursing home last October, weighing only 23.6 kg. She later transferred to a hospital in Pingtung in November, due to deteriorating health. Around seventy years ago, when she was 19 years old, Cheng was snatched by a policeman and taken to an island in the Indian Ocean where she was forced to be a sex slave for Japanese soldiers. She did not return to Taiwan until the age of 24, after the Japanese had lost the war. Cheng sold coconuts at a traditional market in Pingtung for a living in her later years, while continuing to fight legal battles in Japan multiple times, representing “comfort women.”

Cheng’s story was chronicled in a documentary, titled “Song of the Reed” (蘆葦之歌). Cheng said to reporters that her speaking out was done out of the wish that the people of Taiwan do not forget the injustice that took place during that period of history.

“When night falls, I always recall the past. The pain endured is very difficult for others to understand, I need alcohol to numb (myself) to forget,” said Cheng in a previous interview. With the approval of her family, the country will help support the costs of holding a funeral for Cheng. The ceremony will be held on Jan. 20, and the Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation (婦女救援基金會) has announced plans to hold a large tribute event in memory of Cheng.

Ma Mourns Loss President Ma Ying-jeou has frequently visited Cheng in the past. Ma said he was deeply saddened to hear the news of Cheng’s death, in a public statement made on Monday. “She is one year younger than my late mother. Every time I see her, I feel (she) treats me as warmly as my own elders would.”

“Her life’s wish was to receive an official apology from the Japanese government. It’s a pity she still did not hear (the apology) in the end,” remarked Ma. Negotiations are ongoing between the governments of Taiwan and Japan for an official apology and compensation for comfort women.

Cheng’s death brings the total number of living Taiwanese victims of comfort women sex slavery down to three.