A Nanjing Massacre survivor has been awarded 1.6 million yuan (US$200,000) in compensation after winning a lawsuit against two Japanese rightist historians.
In the first-ever Massacre related civil case involving non-Chinese defendants to be heard by a Chinese court, a local court in Nanjing, capital city of east China's Jiangsu Province, ruled in favor of Xia Shuqin's lawsuit against Japanese scholars Shudo Higashinakano and Toshio Matsumura, and a Tokyo-based publisher, Tendensha.
In 1998, Higashinakano and Matsumura stated in their books entitled, "Thorough Review of Nanjing Massacre" and "The Big Question of the Nanjing Massacre", that all historical data about the massacre was untrue and witnesses including Xia Shuqin and Li Xiuying were "faked".
The court ruled that Xia's reputation had been damaged and that she had suffered psychological trauma. The verdict demands an immediate end to the publishing of the books and those that have been published must be recalled and destroyed. In addition, the two writers and the publishing house must have their apologies printed conspicuously in major Chinese and Japanese media.
77-year-old Xia told Xinhua: "I always believed the court would deliver a just verdict."
The defendants may appeal to a higher court within 30 days of the ruling.
The Nanjing Massacre occurred in December 1937 when Japanese troops occupied Nanjing, then the capital of China. Over 300,000 Chinese were killed, a third of the houses in the city burned down and more than 20,000 women raped.
On December 13, 1937, Japanese troops invaded Xia's home and killed seven members of her family. Xia, only eight then, survived the ordeal along with her four-year-old sister.
According to Xia's lawyer, the massacre of Xia's family was filmed by John G. Magee, a US missionary and then chairman of the International Commission of Nanjing Red Cross. Magee's famous films show Japanese soldiers making contests out of killing civilians. One scene shows them lining up in single file a dozen Chinese and firing a rifle point blank at the first person to see how many bodies a single bullet could penetrate.
After Xia lodged the lawsuit, the Xuanwu District court researched historical documents and visited the Memorial Hall of Nanjing Massacre Victims. The court held a public hearing on November 23, 2004, and another two days later, but Shudo Higashinakano, Toshio Matsumura and the Japanese publishing house did not respond to the charges.
In April 2005, the two authors sued Xia in a Tokyo District Court demanding she acknowledge that her suit filed in Nanjing had no basis. In May 2006, Xia counter-sued in the Tokyo District Court. Xia went to Tokyo in June to defend herself. The lawyer for Higashinakano and the Japanese publisher dropped the suit the day it was to be heard.
Xia said: "The two Japanese authors dared not to appear in court in China and shied away from the Japanese courts. As a war victim, no matter whether it is in China or in Japan, I will always demand justice."
Tan Zhen, Xia's lawyer, noted neither Higashinakano nor Matsumura conducted field research in Nanjing, nor did they investigate Xia's story. Tan added that he presented 31 items of evidence for Wednesday's hearing.
Unfortunately, it is unlikely that Xia would receive any of her compensation. According to Tan, enforcement of this court order in China is an issue because China and Japan do not have an agreement that recognizes civil rulings in each other's countries. However, not all is lost since the matter will be publicized in major Japanese newspapers.
Meanwhile, Xia plans to apply to the Chinese court to prevent the defendants from entering the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong or Macao.
The Japanese lawyers who defended Xia in Japan attended Wednesday's ruling as observers. One of them, Akira Ibori with the Tokyo Taiju Law Office, told Xinhua: "The verdict was just. It recognized the reality of the slaughter of Xia's family. We would like to carry the verdict back home and consider submitting it as evidence for the coming hearings."
Xia filed a lawsuit in Tokyo after the two Japanese authors dropped their lawsuit against her. A local court in Tokyo will hear the case on September 22.
Xinhua contacted the Japanese embassy in Beijing, but those able to comment were unavailable.
Takayuki Fujimoto, managing director of Tokyo-based Tendensha, was quoted by Reuters as saying: "We are suspicious of this politically motivated attempt to obliterate genuine academic research into a historical event."
Prof. Zhang Xiaoling, with the Nanjing University Law School, said that Xia's case is of great significance because it is the first Massacre related civil lawsuit to have been heard in China. In the past, Chinese war victims, including massacre and germ warfare survivors and laborers, have had to file lawsuits in Japan.
Li Xiuying, also a survivor of the massacre, won an anti-defamation lawsuit against Matsumura in Japan in April 2003. She was awarded 1.5 million yen.
At least 25 such cases demanding compensation for pain and suffering during the war and for defamation have been lodged by Chinese plaintiffs with Japanese courts. Most of the defendants were the Japanese government and enterprises.
Another 14 cases involving Chinese laborers during the Japanese occupation of China have also been filed. One case resulted in 11 Chinese plaintiffs being awarded 500 million Japanese yen in November 2000. Another five Chinese plaintiffs were awarded 5.5 million Japanese yen each in July 2004.
(Xinhua News Agency August 24, 2006)