Comfort Women: Japan

Chinese Comfort Women: (1st Group)

Filed: August 7, 1995

Fourteen Chinese filed two lawsuits with the Tokyo District Court on August 7, 1995 demanding 220 million in damages from the Japanese government over atrocities committed during the 1937 Sino-Japanese War.  These lawsuits were the first filed by Chinese war victims against the Japanese government. 

Plaintiffs in the first lawsuit, represented by attorney Toshitaka Onodera, included four former comfort women forced to work at Japanese military brothels, relatives of Chinese killed in germ warfare experiments by the Japanese army, and victims of the 1937 Nanjing massacre.  One of the plaintiffs, Li Xiu Mei, alleged that she was kidnapped in the Chinese province of Shanxi at age 15 by Japanese soldiers and forced to work in a front-line brothel for about five months.  In addition to compensation, the five comfort women asked that the Japanese government publish its apologies in Japanese newspapers.

Plaintiffs in the second lawsuit included eight relatives of three people killed by germ warfare unit 731, one victim of the Nanjing massacre, and another victim of an air raid.  One plaintiff, Li Xiu Ying, claimed that she was seriously wounded by the Japanese army in December 1937 while pregnant, and subsequently suffered a miscarriage.

On May 30, 2001, the Tokyo District Court made a decision to dismiss the claims of 14 plaintiffs (no factual findings were made)
.  The court dismissed both lawsuits claiming that an individual had no right to sue a country for compensation.  In addition, the judge ruled that the reparations issue between the two nations was resolved by the Sino-Japanese Joint Communique, issued on 29 September 1972, which established their diplomatic ties.  The plaintiffs appealed to the Tokyo High Court in June 2001.

On December 15, 2004, the Tokyo High Court rejected the demands of the four former comfort women (the first lawsuit) for an official apology from the Japanese government and 22 million per victim for being forced to work at Japanese military brothels during the war.  The court made its decision based on the fact that the Japanese government has no responsibility and the statute of limitations had expired.

The lawyer for the plaintiffs said the victims would file an appeal with Japan’s Supreme Court.  Despite the dissatisfaction, the lawyer expressed some optimism for further lawsuits given two ruling points in this lawsuit: (1) the Tokyo High Court admitted the fact of sex persecution on the Chinese former comfort women and (2) the court gave up the excuse “individuals have no right to claim compensation” that was usually used by Japanese courts in terms of the issue of compensation. 

On April 27, 2007, Both appeals of the 1st group and 2nd group of Chinese comfort women were rejected by the Supreme Court. It ruled that the 1972 Japan-China Joint Communique bars Chinese individuals from seeking war compensation through the courts, and dismissed a claim for damages filed by Chinese people. Presiding Justice Nakagawa mentioned that renouncing the right means that "one cannot seek compensation in court, but the right is not completely eliminated," suggesting that compensation could be settled outside court. (The Japanese text of the court’s rule)

The support group of the plaintiffs claims that there have been no compensation measures taken for Chinese comfort women after 1993’s Kono Statement, and demands the government to redress the injustice and human rights violation of Chinese victims as soon as possible. (The plaintiffs' claims in Japanese)