SHANGHAI: The city's maritime court has ruled Japan's second-largest shipping company should compensate a Chinese family for the theft of two ships during WWII, the Chinese Association for Claiming Compensation from Japan (CACCJ) said on Sunday.
Mitsui OSK Lines has been ordered to pay 190 million yuan ($26 million) to Chen Zhun and Chen Chun, grandsons of the founder of Zhongwei Shipping Company, after more than 40 years of efforts to receive financial reparations.
The ruling, hailed by CACCJ chairman Tong Zeng as a precedent in resolving Sino-Japanese wartime disputes, marks the first time a Chinese plaintiff has won economic reparations for Japan's wartime wrongs.
"The ruling of the case represents a major step forward in the development of China's court law system," said Tong.
"It can offer valuable experience in the resolution of international disputes."
Chen Zhen and Chen Chunclaimed that Japanese shipping company Daido, which was later acquired by Mitsui OSK Lines, retained two ships rented from Zhongwei in 1937 after a one-year contract.
The company owned by the two Chens' grandfather never reclaimed the ships because they were confiscated by the Japanese government and later sunk.
The family first filed a suit seeking financial recompense in Tokyo in 1964, but was unsuccessful.
Undeterred, they brought the case back to Shanghai in the early 1990s, where they sought 2.03 billion yuan ($278 million) from the Japanese defendant, Tong told China Daily.
"The increasing need from Chinese individual plaintiffs to have their cases heard requires the Chinese government to improve the existing laws to allow similar cases to be lodged," Tong said.
"The peaceful resolution of such cases will also help promote the development of Sino-Japanese relations in that the two countries can lay down historic burdens and look into the future."
CACCJ is a non-governmental organization that helps victims reclaim compensation for wrongs perpetrated by the Japanese army during nine years of aggression against China from 1937 to 1945.