A group of Chinese severely injured by chemical weapons left by Japanese troops during World War II have finally been given a chance to have their statements heard in court.
Following years of twists and turns, the Tokyo District Court has decided to hear the statements from the 18 victims of northeast China's Heilongjiang Province suing the Japanese government.
A hearing of lawyers for the case is to take place from December 17 to 18. The victims, involved in seven poisonings and explosions since the 1980s in the province, filed the accusations in 1996 and 1997. They demanded an official apology from the Japanese Government and 300 million yen (US$2.5 million) in compensation.
The Japanese lawyer group said five out of the 18 plaintiffs will be allowed to appear at the hearing in Tokyo in February and March next year.
"The first ruling by the court is expected to be handed down by the end of next year," the group said.
Chinese lawyer Su Xiangxiang, with Xiangxiang Lawyer Agency in Harbin, the province's capital, is confident the Chinese victims are going to win.
"The court has a test case, in which justice was on the accuser's side," Su said. "The difference is we are Chinese." According to Su, a Japanese contaminated by the chemical weapons in Japan sued the Japanese government and won recently.
"My confidence also comes from the untied and enduring effort from Japan's lawyer group," said Su. Su and the group have advanced all the legal costs of the two charges, Su said.
"If we win, the lawyers' fees will be deducted from the compensation, and, if not, we will get nothing but pay legal cost," Su said.
According to Su, the lawyers and the Japanese government had been involved in the court's legal investigation to find whether the accusations could be heard or not.
Zhong Jiang, aged 41 and one out of the 18 victims, was contaminated by lethal mustard gas when a shell exploded as he helped widen a road as a constructor in Mudanjiang.
(China Daily December 10, 2001)