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Air bombing survivors demand compensation
By Wang Zhenghua (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-07-19 09:50

Hundreds of victims of wartime Japanese aerial bombardment in Southwest China's Chongqing Municipality during World War II are joining forces with attorneys across the city.

These lawyers will interview individual bombardment survivors and use these oral histories in a bid to demand compensation from the Japanese Government.

The amount of compensation can be fixed only after an adequate amount of evidence is collected.

Between 1938 and 1943, the invading Japanese troops launched more than 200 rounds of bombings against Chongqing, the country's war-time capital.

Around 11,900 citizens were killed while another 14,700 were wounded in the attacks. Some 17,000 buildings were destroyed.

Gan Xiaojing, director of a Chongqing-based law firm, told China Daily that 10 lawyers have signed up for the campaign. Her law firm is responsible for forming a Chinese attorney's group to collect proof from bombardment victims.

"The more lawyers, the better," said Gan. " Collecting the evidence is by no means an easy job and it is estimated to last for at least one year."

Given an estimated number of 50,000 victims, the woman said she wanted lawyers who are persuasive and proficient in their knowledge of laws.

The chief lawyer and the counselor have been chosen, said Gan.

A Japanese law firm will send seven lawyers to Chongqing to help collect the evidence next month, she said.

Demanding compensation for victims of Chongqing bombardment dates back almost a decade ago.

Gao Yuan, a survivor of the tragedy, is believed to be the first person who proposed compensation for the inhumane raids.

After his younger sister was killed and mother seriously injured more than 60 years ago, Gao started mailing letters to the Japanese Government and even prime ministers in 1995, asking for compensation.

However, the 75-year-old man has never received any compensation, except for a few letters of regret from the Japanese Consulate in Chongqing in early 2000.

He took part in the bombardment compensation association in 2002 which appointed him leader.

Chen Ming, deputy secretary of the association, told China Daily his association, founded in September 2001, is non-governmental.

With more than 440 members who are bombardment survivors, the association aims to provide legal aid to the victims and help them acquire compensation.

Gan said asking for compensation from Japan is reasonable and well-grounded.

When China and Japan established diplomatic relations in 1972, the Chinese Government abandoned the compensation claim for the war.

Gan said that agreement is just between two governments, and the association, as a non-governmental group, is absolutely entitled to claim compensation for individual citizens who suffered war injuries.

"Among the 440 members, the youngest is 65 years old," said Chen, who himself is already 69.

He added that elderly survivors are dying off rapidly, and documenting evidence has become urgent.

Apart from a number of qualified lawyers, the campaign also needs a large amount of funds and college student volunteers.

According to Gan, her law firm has appealed to citizens to donate time and money to the campaign. Two hotlines have been set up to recruit student volunteers.

"These volunteers are necessary to help collect the crime evidence, compile victims' oral histories and translate mountains of Chinese legal documents into Japanese," said Gan.

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