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Massacre Compensation Suit Rejected

The Tokyo High Court on Friday rejected compensation claims from three Chinese plaintiffs over a massacre in 1932, although the court recognized the bloodshed did exist.

Upholding a ruling made by a subordinate court in 2002, the High Court ruled that the Japanese government is immune from taking responsibility for damage inflicted before the enactment of the state compensation law.

The ruling also said international laws do not recognize seeking for damages by individuals.

"The plaintiffs suffered from great mental anguish, and Japan failed to make enough compensation for the damage in the war," the court judged.

The two male plaintiffs -- Mo Desheng, 80, and Yang Baoshan, 82 -- and the 76-year-old female plaintiff Fang Surong, charged that Japanese troops killed their families along with some 3,000 people in their village in Pingdingshan, northeastern Liaoning Province.

They were seeking 20 million yen (US$188,700) each in compensation from the Japanese government.

The Japanese troops rounded up on September 16, 1932 some 3,000 villagers, including the elderly, women and children, in Pingdingshan, and opened machine gun fire. Few escaped. The army then burned to ground the houses, set fire to bodies and made a landslide with explosives to bury the remnant.

China excavated part of the site in 1970 and displayed the findings in a museum.

Also on Friday, Japan's Parliament approved a bill to designate a holiday named after Emperor Hirohito, part of whose reign experienced Japan's aggression in Asia before and in the World War II (WWII).

The House of Councillors passed the bill to rename April 29, the late emperor's birthday, Showa Day, named after the title of his reigning era. The new name will come into effect in 2007.

The bill, proposed by the ruling bloc, cleared the lower house on April 5.

Emperor Hirohito came to the throne in 1926 and died in 1989. The day was known as the Emperor's birthday before being changed to the Greenery Day following his death as the emperor had a keen interest in biology and botanical studies.

The legislation will shift Greenery Day to May 4, also a national holiday, sandwiched between Constitution Day on May 3 and Children's Day on May 5.

The bill had been shelved for several years in consideration of reactions at home and abroad. After the WWII, Emperor Hirohito was immune from taking responsibility. Yet, Japan's post-war constitution deprives the emperors of their power by recognizing them as the nation's symbol rather than the head of state.

The ruling coalition -- the Liberal Democratic Party and the New Komeito Party -- and the main opposition Democratic Party of Japan voted for the bill, while the two other opposition parties --the Japanese Communist Party and Social Democratic Party -- opposed the move.

(Xinhua News Agency May 13, 2005)

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