Published: 11:13, April 23, 2024
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Wartime sex slaves' children file lawsuit
By Yang Zekun

The children of 18 deceased Chinese women who were forced to be sex slaves for the Japanese army recently filed a lawsuit against the Japanese government in a Chinese court, demanding an apology and compensation for crimes committed during the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1931-45).

The submission of their complaints to the Shanxi Provincial High People's Court from April 8 to 10 marked the first time in 32 years that such a case has been brought in China.

Li Ladi, the 78-year-old daughter of victim Wan Aihua, is one of the plaintiffs. In her civil complaint, she demanded that the Japanese government formally apologize and express remorse for the kidnapping, detention, rape, beating, abuse, torment, injury and disease transmission committed against her mother by the Japanese military during the invasion of China.

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Li is seeking 2 million yuan ($276,000) in compensation for physical injury and emotional distress, including damages for the violation of her mother's personal dignity and life.

In 1992, the Chinese forced to be sex slaves by the Japanese army lodged a formal complaint against the Japanese government, demanding an official apology and financial compensation.

The case went to court in Japan in August 1995. With the help of Japanese lawyers, after dozens of hearings between 1995 and 2007, the Japanese court ultimately acknowledged the historical facts but did not offer any apology or financial compensation to the victims.

Zhang Shuangbing, who began investigating the plight of Japanese army sex slaves from China in 1982, prepared the way for the new legal action against the Japanese government, supported by a team of experts and lawyers. Zhang said it was inspired by a related case in South Korea.

In January 2021, the Seoul Central District Court ruled against the Japanese government in a lawsuit filed by South Korean women who had been forced to be sex slaves, ordering Japan to pay 100 million won ($72,000) to each victim.

After more than a decade of fruitless litigation in Japanese courts, the decision by the South Korean court indicated that Chinese victims could seek justice through domestic courts, Zhang said.

A team of lawyers led by Jia Fangyi and Guo Chengxi is handling the case. Jia told the Modern Express Post, a Nanjing-based media outlet, that the Japanese government has never sincerely apologized or compensated victims, which remains a deep wound for every Chinese person.

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Jia said that compensation for the sex slaves is a matter of human rights compensation. The Japanese military committed serious crimes against civilian women, violating their life, health, human rights and dignity. The victims' demands for an apology and compensation from the Japanese government are part of maintaining the individual rights of civilians harmed in war, which is separate from state claims and falls within different international and domestic legal frameworks, he said.

After the South Korean court made a legal ruling, the South Korean victims and their children asked the court to enforce it, and the court asked the South Korean government to disclose Japan's assets in South Korea for enforcement. That had significant implications for Chinese victims, Jia said.