SAN FRANCISCO, Sept. 22 (Xinhua) -- With dancing, speeches and film screening, hundreds of people from different communities gathered Saturday in San Francisco to commemorate the first anniversary of the launch of a comfort women memorial in the city.
The memorial, called "Column of strength," consists of four statues -- a grandmother looking up at three Asian girls standing on a pedestal holding hands together. They represent the hundreds of thousands of women, euphemistically called "comfort women," who were taken from China and other Asian countries and forced into sexual slavery by the Japanese military during World War II.
"A comfort woman told us, 'don't forget us. We won't forget them. We built a memorial -- the only memorial in the United States that honors the victims who had the courage to speak out,'" said Julie Tang, co-chair of the Comfort Women Justice Coalition, a San Francisco-based grassroots organization which spearheaded the efforts to build the memorial.
The memorial, the eighth in the United States and also the first in a major U.S. city, was made possible with the joint efforts from the Chinese, Korean, Filipino and other communities.
Eric Mar, a former San Francisco board supervisor who proposed the resolution of installing the memorial in 2015, called for a more significant movement not just for comfort women memorials, reparations and redress, but also for ending rape culture and patriarchy that still exists in the world today.
Among the guests were two special delegations who came all the way from China and Japan.
Zhang Shuangbing, a village teacher in China's Shanxi Province, shared with the audience his stories of 36 years of locating and interviewing the comfort women survivors and taking 16 of them to Tokyo to testify as victims and witnesses to the Japanese military's wartime atrocities.
"Though we lost the lawsuit and most of the comfort women survivors have passed away, I will continue to fight, to seek justice for the victims as I promised them," said the 65-year-old retired teacher.
Another member of the Chinese delegation is Zhang Yueping, director of the film Great Cold, which tells the brutal experience of two sisters who were kidnapped by the Japanese military from their village as comfort women. The film was screened at San Francisco City College following the rally.
Around 20 people of Kansai Network and Forum for Improvement of Osaka, two grassroots groups in Osaka, also came to San Francisco to stand in solidarity with the city to support the comfort women memorial.
Osaka Mayor Hirofumi Yoshimura has repeatedly asked the late San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee and incumbent Mayor London Breed to remove the memorial and threatened to terminate the sister-city relationship with San Francisco otherwise.
Kazuko Yamahara, representative of Forum for Improvement of Osaka, told the audience that when Mayor Yoshimura declared that he would terminate the sister-city relationship, they began to learn about the comfort women history all over again.
"Through the memorials here, we hope to continue to learn from you and grow together to cultivate solidarity and relationships so that we will continue to ensure that history stays alive through the next generation," said Yamahara.