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A "comfort women" center, which has highlighted how the legacy of Japan's wartime sex slavery is disputed both in China and internationally, still stands amidst a heap of rubble in Shanghai's Hongkou district after demolition work was suddenly halted, China Central Television (CCTV) reported in December 2016.
As the city's biggest former military brothel, the center used to house 10 sex workers hired from Japan, 10 South Korean "comfort women" who had been lured under false pretenses from their country and 20 Chinese "comfort women" who had been looted from the battlefield.
The brothel shut down after the Japanese army surrendered in 1945. At the beginning of 2016, the local government stopped the building from being demolished by a local real estate developer, the Shanghai Hongtai Construction Company. Since then, debate over whether it should be knocked down or not has been raging online.
Some people claim that it should be preserved as a piece of history, while others argue that the building could exert a "bad influence" and embarrass children.
The Hainai House was established in the 1920s and it became a military brothel after the Japanese invasion.
Su Jianzhong, president of Hongtai, told CCTV that they began demolishing the building in December 2015. He said its residents have called for demolition and relocation for years as the building has no gas and they have to line up to use the kitchen and to take showers.
However, after demolition began, posts criticizing him and the local government quickly went viral online, accusing the authorities of allowing the destruction of a protected building.
Su said that the authorities then told him to stop in February 2016. However, Lin Jianxin, an official from the district's housing authority, told CCTV that the house has no special status and related departments did not say that it is a preserved or protected structure.
He Ying, president of the district's cultural relic museum, said that she feels that criticism aimed at her is undeserved as the Hainai House is not an official cultural relic.
"There is a standard to stipulate what is regarded as relic and should be preserved. It is based on its scientific, artistic and historical value," said He.
A local resident told CCTV that "I heard that there are a lot of 'comfort women' centers and it is not necessary to keep that one which has little value."
Lin said that if every military brothel was preserved, it would affect the economic development of Shanghai.
Across the street, there is a middle school and the authorities have said they plan to expand the school onto the site, perhaps using parts of the Hainai House.
Another resident surnamed Guo said that the house brings shame to the whole nation and it shouldn't be part of a school.
"It is wrong to incorporate a house for 'comfort women' into a school," said Guo, adding that students need to accept "positive energy education" but the "comfort women" issue is not "positive."
Four junior students from the school told CCTV in an interview that they had heard about the Hainai House and that it is related to the past, though they refused to say how.
Many local residents even referred to the "comfort women" as "whores."
Su Zhiliang, director of the comfort women research center at Shanghai Normal University, told CCTV that there are 166 former military brothels in Shanghai.
These buildings should be preserved as they are of importance as evidence of historical events, he argues.
The fight over the history of "comfort women" is not simply consigned to academia, it is a current topic as the Japanese, South Korean and Chinese governments continue to argue over the legacy of Japan's wartime atrocities and even what those atrocities were.
In 2016, Japan's Deputy Foreign Minister Shinsuke Sugiyama said during a session of the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women in Geneva that Japan has found no evidence that the "comfort women" were forcefully recruited, The Japan Times reported.
Some 400,000 women in Asia were forced to serve as "comfort women" during WWII, nearly half of whom were Chinese, Su said.
Tokyo on Friday recalled its ambassador to protest against a statue of a "comfort woman" placed outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul, arguing that it goes against a 2015 agreement between the neighbors to put an end to the "comfort women" issue with a Japanese apology and cash payment.(news from People's daily online)