A Nanjing Massacre survivor has been awarded 1.6 million yuan (200,000 U.S. dollars) in compensation after winning a lawsuit against two Japanese rightist historians.
In the first ever Massacre-related civil case involving people from outside China to be taken up by a Chinese court, a local court in Nanjing, capital city of east China's Jiangsu Province, ruled in favour of Xia Shuqin's lawsuit against Japanese scholars Shudo Higashinakano and Toshio Matsumura, and a Tokyo-based publisher, Tendensha.
In 1998, Higashinakano and Matsumura stated in their books titled "Thorough Review of Nanjing Massacre" and "The Big Question of the Nanjing Massacre" that all historical data about the Massacre was not true and witnesses including Xia Shuqin and another survivor Li Xiuying were "faked".
The court ruled that Xia's reputation had been damaged and that she had suffered psychological trauma. The verdict demands an immediate end to the publishing of the books and all the books that have been published must be recalled and destroyed. The two writers and the publishing house must have their apologies carried conspicuously by major Chinese and Japanese media.
The 77-year-old told Xinhua, "I always believed the court would deliver a just verdict."
The defendants may appeal to a higher court within 30 days of the ruling.
The Nanjing Massacre occurred in December 1937 when Japanese troops occupied Nanjing, the then capital of China. Over 300,000 Chinese were killed, one third of the houses in the city were burned and more than 20,000 women were raped.
On Dec. 13, 1937, Japanese troops invaded Xia's home and killed seven members of her family. Xia, only eight-years-old, survived with her four-year-old sister.
According to Xia's lawyer, the massacre of Xia's family was filmed by John G. Magee, a U.S. missionary and then chairman of the International Commission of Nanjing Red Cross. Magee's famous films show Japanese soldiers making contests out of killing civilians. One scene shows them lining up in single file a dozen Chinese and firing a rifle point blank at the first to see how many bodies the single bullet would penetrate.
After Xia lodged the lawsuit, the Xuanwu District court researched historical documents and visited the Memorial Hall of Nanjing Massacre Victims. The court held a public hearing on Nov. 23, 2004, and another two days later, but Shudo Higashinakano, Toshio Matsumura and the Japanese publishing house did not respond to the charges.
In April 2005, the two authors sued Xia in a Tokyo District Court demanding she acknowledge that her suit filed in Nanjing had no basis. In May 2006, Xia counter-sued the men in the Tokyo District Court. Xia went to Tokyo in June to defend herself against the lawsuit. The lawyer for Higashinakano and the Japanese publisher dropped the suit the day it was to be heard.
Xia Shuqin said,"The two Japanese authors dared not to appear in court in China and shied away from the Japanese courts. As a war victim, no matter whether it is in China or in Japan, I will always demand justice."
Tan Zhen, Xia's lawyer, noted neither Higashinakano nor Matsumura conducted field research in Nanjing and they did not investigate Xia herself either. Tan added that he presented 31 items of evidence for Wednesday's ruling.
But Xia will probably never receive financial compensation. According to Tan, it is difficult for the verdict to be carried out as China and Japan have no judicial agreement that recognizes civil rulings in each other's countries. However, the ruling will not be a piece of scrap paper as the major part of the verdict will be carried in major Japanese newspapers, Tan said.
Meanwhile, Xia plans to apply to the Chinese court to prevent the defendants entering the Chinese mainland, Hong Kong or Macao.
The Japanese lawyers who defended Xia in Japan attended Wednesday's ruling as observers. One of them, Akira Ibori with the Tokyo Taiju Law Office, told Xinhua, "The verdict was just. It recognized the reality of the slaughter of Xia's family. We would like to carry the verdict back home and consider submitting it as evidence for the coming hearings."
Xia filed a lawsuit in Tokyo after the two Japanese authors dropped their lawsuit against her. A local court in Tokyo will hold hearings for the case on Sept. 22.
Xinhua tried to contact the Japanese embassy in Beijing, but they said those people who could make a comment were unavailable.
Takayuki Fujimoto, managing director of the Japanese publisher, Tokyo-based Tendensha, was quoted by Reuters as saying, "We are suspicious of this politically motivated attempt to obliterate genuine academic research into a historical event."
Prof. Zhang Xiaoling, with the law school of Nanjing University, said that Xia's case is of a great significance, as it is the first Massacre-related civil lawsuit accepted inside China. In the past, Chinese war victims, including massacre and germ war survivors and laborers, filed lawsuits in Japan.
Li Xiuying, also a survivor of the massacre, won an anti-defamation lawsuit against Matsumura in Japan in April 2003. She was awarded 1.5 million yen.
At least 25 such cases demanding compensation for suffering during the war and for defamation have been lodged by plaintiffs from the Chinese mainland with Japanese courts. Most of the defendants were the Japanese government and enterprises.
Another 14 cases defending Chinese laborers during the Japanese occupation of China have also been filed. One case resulted in 11 Chinese plaintiffs being awarded 500 million Japanese yen in November 2000. Another five Chinese plaintiffs were awarded 5.5 million Japanese yen each in July 2004.