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Japanese government sued over Chongqing bombing
Publication Date : 11-09-2012
Fifteen victims of Japan's mass bombing campaign in Chongqing between 1938 and 1944 have filed a lawsuit against the Japanese government.
The plaintiffs have demanded a worldwide apology for the Chinese people and compensation for economic losses, chief lawyer Lin Gang said on Monday.
The lawsuit, submitted to the Chongqing High People's Court, is the first time victims of war have sued Japan's government in China, said Pan Guohua, professor of international law at the Southwest University of Political Science and Law. He is a consultant for the legal team presenting the case.
Historical records show the Japanese army indiscriminately bombed the country's then wartime capital Chongqing and nearby cities, including Leshan and Chengdu in Sichuan province, between February 1938 and December 1944. According to a study by a Chinese group, the bombings killed 23,600 people and wounded 37,700 others, Xinhua News Agency reported.
Among the 15 plaintiffs, most of whom are more than 70 years old, eight were survivors of the bombing, while seven are relatives of people killed.
Wang Bangli, a 74-year-old retired teacher in Chongqing, said her family suffered great losses, both physically and economically.
It is high time the Japanese government offered an official apology to the people of Chongqing and took responsibility for the crime, she said.
Wang's mother suffered injuries to her left eye in the bombing, while the Japanese air force also destroyed the family's house and electric appliance shop.
She has been trying to prosecute the Japanese government since 2002, and went to the Tokyo District Court in 2009, but came back empty-handed.
According to Wang, the victims of the "Bombing of Chongqing" have filed four lawsuits in Japan between 2006 and 2009, but all ended in vain.
"During the trial in Japan, there was not even one translator assigned to us," she recalled.
Lin, the lawyer, said the long legal process and evidence gathering made the lawsuit in Japan very difficult and the ruling in the first trial has not been handed down yet.
As the youngest of the 15 plaintiffs, 64-year-old retiree Wang Lixi sued the Japanese government for compensation for economic loss of 2 million yuan (US$316,000).
He said the compensation claimed by the 15 plaintiffs varied according to their situations.
"I spent lots of time, money and effort participating in different kinds of the activities concerning the bombing of Chongqing," he said. "It is national pride that has supported me through all these years."
Wang Lixi said his uncle's arms were injured by bombs in 1941, and his father's leather factory was also bombed out during the war.
However, this time, even having prepared for only two months, Wang and other 14 plaintiffs in Chongqing felt confident enough to win the case.
It is very possible that the victims will win the case in China because there were several successful similar cases in Europe like the Luigi Ferrini case in Italy, professor Pan said.
Ferrini is an Italian citizen who was captured and deported to Germany by Nazi troops in August 1944, where he was forced to work and subsequently transferred to a concentration camp until April 1945.
On Sept 23, 1998, he took legal action against the German government before the Tribunal of Arezzo in Italy, seeking damages for physical and psychological injury. Germany pleaded jurisdictional immunity under customary international law.
In the Ferrini case, the Italian Supreme Court affirmed that Germany was not entitled to sovereign immunity for serious violations of human rights carried out by German occupying forces during World War II.
Pan said that if the plaintiffs of Chongqing could win this case, the proceedings against the Japanese government for the Nanjing Massacre and other cases could be conducted in China.
Four law firms in Chongqing provided legal assistance for the 15 plaintiffs, Lin said, adding that there are several channels to help victims of war sue the Japanese government, and seeking a lawsuit in a Chinese court is just one of them.
Lin said that the plaintiffs will not give up the lawsuit in the Japanese court and will continue the case in Chongqing.
The goal for those lawsuits is that the victims of war could get an apology and compensation from the Japanese government, Lin said.
Ji Jin contributed to this story.