Why Japanese government rejected the '9.29' ruling?

On September 29 the Tokyo District Court ruled indemnity demand by 13 Chinese nationals for injury caused to their health by chemical weapons left over in China by Japanese invading troops during World War II. The Japanese government should pay an indemnity of around 190 million- yen (US$1.7 million) to these victims. This is the first claim ever won by Chinese victims injured by the Japanese abandoned weapons.

A similar claim was rejected by the same court on May 15, on the pretext that the claim was raised after the due 20-year period for filing lawsuit, the Chinese government has given up war indemnity claim and it's difficult to collect the abandoned toxic bombs. Compared with the "May 15" ruling, the "September 29" verdict has apparently gone beyond the expectation of the Chinese plaintiffs, who finally won the case after 8 years' appeal. When presiding judge Mr. Yoshihiro Katayama finished reading the court verdict, the plaintiffs and Chinese and Japanese lawyers who acted on their behalf hugged one another in ecstatic tears. Later, Mr. Hiroshi Oyama, head of Japanese plaintiff lawyers, paid a special tour to China to report the good news. At a lecture held at the Memorial Hall for the War of Resistance Against Japan at Lugouqiao, Mr. Oyama, holding a fax copy of the verdict, said in a loud voice, "I'm very excited that I can come to China and tell by myself Chinese victims and their relatives that we have won the case. The Tokyo District Court admitted the damage on Chinese people by the Japan abandoned chemical weapons and supported the indemnity claim in an all-round way. This is really a hard-won result". Japanese lawyer Mr. Harumi Tobe, a company of Mr. Oyama, also said excitedly, "the ruling goes beyond our expectation, and is a result long expected by both Japanese and Chinese lawyer groups. We are very satisfied".

The "September 29" ruling by Tokyo District Court, based on the recognition of the fact of injuries on the plaintiffs, is a breakthrough in dealing with the indemnity claims on Japanese chemical weapons, as well as a reference for all lawsuits over the questions left over by the war. First of all, it has poked a hole in the limitation of the due 20-year period for filing lawsuit. The verdict has decided that the Japanese government is responsible for changing the dangerous conditions of chemical weapons left by invading troops so as to avoid accidents. Especially since the normalization of Sino-Japanese ties in 1972, said the verdict, the Japanese government is fully capable of implementing its obligation. It is but its "omission" that caused these accidents. If the nation takes the 20-year limitation period laid down by Japanese civil law as an excuse to escape damage compensations, it will be against the principle of justice. So the 20-year limitation was called off. Secondly, the ruling partly broke up the excuse long held by the Japanese government that "the Chinese government has given up the rights of war indemnity claims". The verdict believes that the Chinese government's giving up of indemnity rights in the "Joint Communiqu¨¦ of Japan and China" only applies to claims for the damages incurred during the war. But the cast-away of chemical weapons and the accidents caused by them happened after the end of the war, the victims should have the rights to claim for compensation. This means that at least other chemical weapon victims could refer to the case.

The "September 29" ruling is just and satisfactory, but weather it can be realized depends on the attitude of the Japanese government. In Japanese judicial system, the third ruling is the final one, and the verdict can still be altered in the following two rulings if the government decides to reject the verdict and appeal. Just out of this reason, Chinese plaintiffs hope that the government show sincerity in confession upon the war, drop the appeal and recognize the verdict as soon as possible. The Nippon-China Friendship Association, the Chinese lawyers Association and some Diet members from the Democratic Socialist Party and Communist Party also called on the Japanese government to drop appeal and shoulder its obligations and responsibilities. Some estimated optimistically that the new term of Koizumi administration would bend on improving Japan-China relations by taking the chance to display a friendly profile and improve its moral image.

However, the hope of the kind-hearted people was soon shattered when the Japanese government rejected the ruling and appealed to the Tokyo High Court. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs, lack of a good ground, only argued in its declaration that the ruling is different from the "May 15" one and judicial judgment from a higher court is necessary. Then Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi echoed the announcement of the Ministry.

In fact, the Japanese government's stance is by no means strange. There are three reasons. First, today the rightwing forces are holding sway over Japan's political community, which features the politics of Right-deviationists, denial of the history of aggression and strong anti-China sentiments. Asking the rightwing forces to shoulder war-related political and economic responsibilities will be no easier than tearing down a tiger's skin. Second, out of a mind jealous of and guarding against China's rapid development, recent years have witnessed a rising of anti-China sentiments in Japan. Unfriendly actions towards China may serve to add weight to one's political future, and that's why Japanese politicians stirred up disputes with China one after another. Third, the Japanese government fears that the ruling will be followed as a reference in other cases, thereby setting up an example for compensation claims by Chinese people. So the government tries by every means to blot out the impact of the "September 29" ruling in order to resist a compensation wave lodged by China on the issues of war labor, germ warfare and comfort women so as to shun its political and economic liabilities.

Mr. Ma Licheng, who advocates "new thought on relations with Japan", has lately published an article on a Japanese rightwing magazine, stressing that "Japan has offered its apology to China for twenty one times". He meant to say that the historical question has been brought to an "end" and China should stop haggling over the matter. However, the Japanese government's behavior reminds us time and again that their "apology" is but a lip service forced out by the situation. For a sincere apology, even once would be quite enough. The repeated accidents and Japanese attitude also tell us that historical question is the one of a "present tense", and far from being ended. As to when this will come to an end, it depends on Japan but not on China.

The "September 29" ruling is a just ruling and Japanese government's appeal is an unjust appeal. The struggle focusing on damages by abandoned chemical weapons and other issues left over by the war will be a severe test on Japan's political conscience and judicial independence. The Chinese people will continue to watch closely the development of the case, and the struggle for non-governmental compensation claims will continue no matter what the result is going to turn out. For the fight is by no means just for economic compensation, but the condemnation of aggression, for exposition of the facts, and for promotion of justice.

From the "September 29" ruling we've after all read upright persons and China-friendly forces in Japan, towards whom we feel gratified. Here we would like to pay our respects to those upright Japanese friends.

This is an article on People.com.cn, October 10, written by Lin Zhibo, translated by PD Online staff member Li Heng.

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