Victims of a series of bombings of southwest Chinese city Chongqing during World War Two are seeking compensation from the Japanese government, more than seven decades after an atrocity that killed nearly 40,000 people.
The collective civil suit was brought by 15 Chongqing bombing survivors — including a 91 year old — and their families before the Chongqing Municipal Higher People’s Court on Monday.
Pan Guoping, the victims’ lawyer, said the compensation claim of each family varied from 1.5 million to 80 million yuan (236,220 to 12.6 million U.S. dollars).
Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda is the accused, on behalf of the Japanese government, according to Pan.
Lin Gang, another lawyer representing the victims, said the Chongqing court has to decide whether to try the case and respond within seven days, as required by the law. “If the case is dismissed, we will bring it to the Supreme Court,” Lin said.
During World War Two, the Japanese army was blamed for indiscriminately bombing Chongqing and nearby cities between February 1938 and December 1944. An estimate by a Chinese civil group indicates that the Chongqing bombings led to the deaths of 39,480 people.
Victims filed compensation suits before Japanese courts between March 2006 and October 2009. By March 2012, more than 24 plaintiffs had testified against the wartime Japanese army in courts. The trials have not yet concluded.
Monday’s legal action, however, was the first time a Chinese civil group has attempted to sue the Japanese government for the WW2 atrocities at a domestic court.
Lin said the compensation claims were brought to court again after the victims raised “strong” demands.
“We did not know anything about compensation until very recently. Now, we have formed a group and can demand justice from the Japanese,” said Wang Shuchen, the 91-year-old bombing survivor.
Lin noted, according to international practices, there is no time limit to a litigation involving war crimes.