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Chinese war victims get legal aid
By Le Tian (China Daily)
Updated: 2006-02-27 05:23

Three Chinese companies and hundreds of citizens donated on Saturday more than 2.56 million yuan (US$315,000) as a special fund to help cover the expenses of lawsuits against the Japanese Government and related companies for atrocities committed during World War II.

Su Yongqiang, the boss of a private Tianjin company , donated 1 million yuan (US$120,000) on Saturday on behalf of his company.

"I want to tell those victims and their lawyers that they are not alone," Su said.

The Chinese victims are attempting to sue the Japanese Government and related Japanese companies in Chinese courts, while legal proceedings continue in Japan.

Tian Chunsheng, 76, who was forced to work in a Japanese mine during World War II, was the first person to bring a case against a Japanese firm before a Chinese court.

The move came as dozens of wartime compensation suits have been filed in Japanese courts against the Japanese Government and related companies for their atrocities in World War II, but almost all have failed.

"It is very difficult to be awarded economic compensation against a Japanese company in Japan, so war victims are suing from inside China," Tong Zeng, an activist fighting for war compensation in Beijing, was quoted by the Xinhua News Agency as saying.

Besides forced labourers like Tian, hundreds of Chinese have lodged lawsuits against the Japanese Government since 1995. These include the victims, and their relatives, harmed by Japan's notorious bacterial war and the chemical weapons abandoned in China, and the women forced to be sex slaves for the Japanese army. However, the Japanese courts rejected demands for compensation, insisting a 20-year statute of limitations has expired.

"Theoretically, in terms of the law, filing suits in China is feasible within the legal procedure," Chen Chunong, a legal professor at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told reporters at a news conference on Saturday. The Japanese Government argues that compensation was settled by a joint statement in 1972 when the two countries established diplomatic relations.

However, Chen said, China agreed to give up the state compensations in consideration of the normalization of bilateral ties, but never abandoned the right to demand civilian compensation.

Kang Jian, a lawyer in Beijing who began to help the forced labourers seek justice a decade ago, said in an interview that the suits were full of twists and turns as the Japanese Government refused to face up to the historical fact.

"We will continue our efforts, but we really need more support from society as a whole, both morally and financially," Kang said in an interview on Saturday. The 10-year suits have cost more than 10 million yuan (US$1.25 million), most of which came from donations given by Japanese lawyers who help with the compensation suits, according to the lawyer.

(China Daily 02/27/2006 page2)

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