A group of Chinese civilians are bringing a lawsuit against the Japanese government in a Chinese court.
The group is comprised of survivors and relatives of victims of a massacre carried out by the Japanese army during Japan's invasion of China in World War II. If the court accepts, this would be the first civil claim for compensation in a domestic court.
In 1941, the villagers of Panjiayu were nearly wiped out by the occupying Japanese troops. Of the 1,700 villagers, 1,300 were killed in one day. Seventy-three years later, survivors and victims' family members are suing the Japanese government for 6 billion RMB in compensation, as well as an apology they had waited three quarters of a century for.
"We are looking for justice for our predecessors. Especially as Japan is still denying history, and trying to glorify the war. We will never allow that to happen," group leader of Panjiayu Civil Claim Against Japan Pan Ruishen said.
Pan Shanzeng survived the massacre by hiding under dead bodies in a pigpen. He was only six years old.
"I saw a pregnant woman being stabbed by a bayonet and her unborn child was cut out. At the foot of a wall, I saw a soldier stamp on one leg of a child and grab the other leg. He tore the child in half and then tossed the body into a fire," Pan said.
Since 1992, people in Panjiayu have been looking for justice. And they have now collected enough evidence and authorized the China Federation of Civil Claims against Japan to represent them in the lawsuit. The NGO has recently shifted its focus from Japanese courts to domestic courts.
"China's society is making progress and the legal institution has improved. The case has its basis in international laws, treaties between China and Japan, as well as domestic laws. I believe the court will give a just judgement," president of China Federation Of Civil Claims Against Japan Tong Zeng said.
The case will be submitted to a Chinese court in August. Eight lawyers have offered free service.
Most of the remaining war survivors are old and are unlikely to live longer than another ten years, so this is probably their last chance to seek an apology and compensation from Japan.