Chinese youths sue over chemical shell injuries


Two Chinese youths injured by a chemical weapon abandoned in China by the Imperial army at the end of the war sued the Japanese government Thursday for ¥66 million.

Sho Dong, 15, and Lui Hao, 11, both from Dunhua, Jilin Province, say they began to suffer chronic respiratory ailments and deteriorating eyesight after coming across an unexploded shell near their home in July 2004. The two say they were exposed to leaked poisonous liquid while handling the mustard gas shell.

Japan has expressed regret over the incident, acknowledging in 2004 that the shell was left behind by the Japanese military at the end of World War II. But according to the plaintiff’s lawyer, Katsuhiko Yamada, Japan has not provided any financial or medical support to the boys despite repeated requests.

Speaking to reporters after filing the suit with the Tokyo District Court, Yamada said the two minors, blistered and in severe pain, were hospitalized for more than two months after being exposed to fluids from the weapon. Since the incident, both Sho and Lui have reportedly lost physical strength and have been discriminated against by their neighbors, some of whom believe illness caused by exposure to poison gas is contagious.

Japanese courts have so far returned mixed verdicts in health-related damages suits linked to chemical weapons left behind by the military.

Last March, the Tokyo High Court upheld a lower court ruling rejecting compensation claims by victims of leaked gas incidents between 1950 to 1987 on the basis that Japan was unable to conduct proper searches for the weapons in postwar China. A Supreme Court ruling on the case is pending.

In 2003, the Tokyo District Court held Japan accountable for three incidents of gas poisoning between 1974 to 1995 and ordered the government to pay a combined ¥200 million in compensation to 13 Chinese plaintiffs. The ruling was overturned by the Tokyo High Court last July. This case is now being deliberated by the Supreme Court.

A third lawsuit filed last January by 48 residents of the northern Chinese province of Heilongjiang over an October 2003 incident is still awaiting a district court.