Japanese judges yesterday dealt another blow against the victims of their weapons of mass destruction.
With hundreds of thousands of chemical weapons still scattered across China, civilians are still falling victim to them half-a-century on.
But despite acknowledging the facts of the latest lawsuit, Tokyo District Court rejected demands for both an apology and compensation.
The court gave its decision in the first ruling on the case, lodged five years ago, reported China News Service yesterday.
Actions brought against the Japanese Government and Japanese companies arising out of atrocities committed in Asia during the 1930s and 40s have a track record of failure in the Japanese courts.
The most recent judgment involved five plaintiffs from Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province. They were injured in two separate incidents involving either explosions or accidental leaks from poison gas bombs.
Li Guoqiang and three other plaintiffs suffered gas poisoning from a leaking bomb which they accidentally unearthed.
The gas caused breathing difficulties, skin sores and severe headaches.
The fifth plaintiff was injured when an unexploded gas bomb went off in the garden of his home.
Alleging that poison gas munitions left behind by the Japanese army during their invasion of China in the 1930s and early 1940s pose a serious threat to life and property, the five plaintiffs sought an apology and compensation totaling 80 million yen (US$664,000) from the Japanese Government under the national compensation law of Japan, and international Law.
Chinese lawyer Su Xiangxiang together with Bu Ping, vice-president of the Heilongjiang Academy of Social Science, appeared in court as witnesses on behalf of the claimants.
"It is rare for the Japanese Government to allow a Chinese lawyer to be a witness. I presented testimonies from various fields that I had arduously collected over the past years," said Su. Speaking to the Beijing Youth Daily before the judgment was given, Su had predicted that the court would acknowledge the facts, but he did not speculate on whether compensation or apology would be forthcoming.
Thirteen other Chinese, allegedly victims of gas bombs, have also filed lawsuits in the Tokyo District Court.
Following their ignominious World War II defeat, the Japanese army left behind large quantities of unused chemical weapons in China.
More than 2,000 people have been injured by these weapons.
A total of 3,600 poison gas bombs and shells have been located in China by Japanese officials called in to clear them.
But that leaves an estimated 700,000-plus chemical munitions still left by Japan, which has an obligation to remove them within 10 years, under the terms of the Convention for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which came into effect in April 1997.
(China Daily May 16, 2003)