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Japan Must Face Up to Wartime Past

What does an admission of guilt mean? For a Japanese court, it means nothing but an announcement. The court is very forgiving of the criminals. 

On Tuesday the Tokyo High Court rejected an appeal by a group of Chinese victims and relatives that had requested compensation from the Japanese government for suffering stemming from the germ warfare Japan waged in China during and before World War II. It upheld a lower court ruling.


The verdict from the Tokyo High Court did not come as a surprise given that tensions are running high between the two countries.


In August 2002 the Tokyo District Court dismissed claims for compensation from 180 Chinese victims and relatives of deceased victims of the germ warfare carried out by the infamous Unit 731 of the Japanese army, based near Harbin, capital of northeastern Heilongjiang Province.


The Chinese claimants demanded US$84,000 each and an apology from the Japanese government.


The court acknowledged, for the first time, that the Japanese army waged germ warfare in China during and before World War II.


At that time, the district court rejected the lawsuit, saying "no international law that enables individuals to sue for war damages had been established at the time or has been now."


The court used post-war treaties as an excuse for not paying compensation to the victims of the Imperial Japanese Army's reprehensible treatment of the Chinese.


No international laws exempt Japan from its war responsibilities.


Unit 731 perpetrated the most shocking, heinous, cruel crime the civilized world has ever known -- it used human beings for vivisection to develop biological weapons.


Both chemical and biological warfare were banned by the Geneva Convention of 1925. Totally disregarding international laws and human morality, Unit 731 released fleas infected with bubonic plague and food dosed with cholera bacteria in Zhejiang and Hunan provinces between 1940 and 1942, killing at least 10,000 people.


Recently a few former members of Unit 731, regardless of pressure from the Japanese government, resolutely stood up to bear witness to the truth for posterity.


The volume of testimony on the activities of Japan's germ warfare in China has failed to touch the stone heart of Japan.


Japan has cited over the years the 1972 China-Japan joint communiqué to clear its conscience over responsibility for the fate of Chinese nationals.


The Chinese government declared it would give up its war reparations from Japan in 1972 when China and Japan forged diplomatic relations.


The Japanese revisionists take the clause in the joint communiqué as justification to offload their country's war obligations, including paying reparations to individual victims.


From 1937 through to 1945, Japan's aggression cost 11 million Chinese lives and caused China a loss of US$300 billion -- US$120 billion from the government and US$180 billion from individuals.


When the Chinese government waived its claims for compensation from Japan in 1972, individuals were not included. The document does not deprive victimized individuals and their relatives of the right to request an apology and compensation from Japan.


Most of the treaties drawn up after 1945 make a clear division between governmental and individual claims for war reparations. It is common practice that the individuals' right to claim war compensation is not covered by their government's right.


Chinese leaders have made this clear on various occasions. According to China's Constitution, the government cannot represent Chinese nationals to waive claims for war compensation until the National People's Congress approves such a move, which it has never done.


When Chinese nationals request war reparations from the Japanese government, they ask for justice.


History is a heavy page Japan will not be able to turn over if the country refuses to face it squarely.


(China Daily July 20, 2005)

Tokyo Court Rejects Germ Warfare Appeal
Witnesses Tell of Japanese Germ War
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