CARTOON: Stretching the Truth

CARTOON: Stretching the Truth

What you need to know

A viral firestorm over a Japanese man's leg movements has engulfed Taiwan.

A Japanese man caught appearing to kick a statue commemorating Taiwanese women forced into sexual bondage at the hands of the Japanese Imperial army during World War II has claimed he was just stretching his legs.

Mitsuhiko Fujii was caught on surveillance cameras extending his front leg towards the bronze statue, which was erected in the southern city of Tainan last month as the first memorial of its kind to “comfort women”, as they are euphemistically known, in Taiwan.

Fujii, who was visiting as part of a delegation of right wing groups from Japan, later claimed in a statement he was merely stretching his legs after a long flight, adding that he suspected the opposition Kuomintang (KMT) party had doctored the video evidence in a bid to drum up support ahead of Nov. 24 local elections.

Credit: Mitsuhiko Fujii
A photo released by Mitsuhiko Fujii in which he asserts he was merely stretching his legs.

He said he was in Taiwan to meet with KMT Tainan Party Chairman Xie Longjie (謝龍介) to raise a complaint over the sourcing for the statue's plaque, which claims that up to 400,000 women were pressed into sexual servitude, rather than a much more conservative figure of 2,000 claimed by other groups.

The KMT has long campaigned for Japan to apologize over its role in coercing women into offering sexual services, though Taiwan's ruling Democratic Progressive Party has so far been content to let sleeping dogs lie, in line with the Japanese government's desire to deflect attention from the issue.

KMT Tainan City Councilor Hsieh Lung-chieh (謝龍介) had intended to meet with the visiting Japanese group, but released the video via his Facebook page instead, in the process stirring up a viral backlash that tapped resentment from Taiwanese netizens outraged at the alleged insult to their ascendants.

The clamor for redress developed into a full-blown protest outside the Japan-Taiwan Exchange Association in Taipei on Monday as the KMT joined the Tainan Association for Comfort Women’s Rights, the body responsible for putting up the statue, in demanding an apology and for Fujii to be banned from Taiwan.

Read Next: Lives of Resilience: Reimagining Taiwan’s Comfort Women

Editor David Green (@DavidPeterGreen)

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