Chinese victims of Japanese germ warfare in the early 1940s filed a class-action suit with the Tokyo District Court on Aug. 11, demanding that the government acknowledge the damage and compensate them individually.
The 108 plaintiffs are victims of Japanese biological attacks and their families in six areas of China, including 30 people from Chongshan, Zhejiang Province, and 30 others from Changde, Hunan Province. They are seeking 10 million yen each in damages for their suffering.
Among nearly 30 war-damages suits filed with Japanese courts, this is the first in connection with Japan’s use of biological weapons during the Sino-Japanese War.
At a news conference in Kasumigaseki, Tokyo, He Qisui, 66, said his uncle died three days after a Japanese military plane air-dropped grain with germ-infected fleas in a busy downtown district of Ningbo, Zhejiang Province, in October 1942.
He Yingzhen, 62, said six of her family members died in a plague that broke out in Changde in November 1941 after the bacillus was released by the Japanese army.
Wang Jinhua, 60, of Chongshan, said a massive plague broke out in his village in 1942, killing more than 390 people.
More than 400 houses were burned down to prevent the further spread of the plague, he added.
“The damage caused by the germ warfare is the worst in the village’s history,” Wang said.
“I want the Japanese government to acknowledge actions committed in the village by the Japanese military, build a memorial for germ-warfare victims and compensate all the villagers.”
Facts on Japanese involvement in biological warfare remained unclear long after the end of the war, although research in recent years has shown that Unit 731 of the Imperial Japanese Army produced and used biological weapons during the Sino-Japanese War.
The Japanese government has so far refused to admit that it engaged in biological warfare. Unlike other war criminals, members of Unit 731 were not persecuted by Allied Forces because of a secret deal it struck with the United States after the war, according to experts.
The Foreign Ministry said it will deal with the suit after carefully considering its content.
Lawyers for the plaintiffs said their clients are eligible for individual state compensation based on the Hague Convention of 1907, which bans signatory nations from engaging in a germ warfare. Japan ratified the convention in 1911.
The lawyers also said they have interviewed former Imperial Japanese Army soldiers involved in the use of biological weapons. The veterans may testify before the court, they added.