Woman Wins Damages in Nanjing Massacre Suit

Jan 06, 2009
*Special to asia!
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A 79-year-old woman triumphs over a revisionist historian's assault.


"We remember the suffering of the individual women who were subjected to sexual violence by the Japanese military, lament the victims of wartime sexual violence throughout the world, pray for a peaceful world without war." These words are inscribed in 12 languages on a cenotaph unveiled on Japan's Okinawa island.

Truth be told: Xia Shuqin exalted, "I will go to my family's graves and say to them, 'I won against the Japanese liars! You can rest in peace.' "


Even with their elderly hunched-over frames, the 100 or so Japanese and South Korean women at the ceremony towered over the stone structure, a memorial to the many reluctant leading ladies in the grotesque cruelties of the Second World War.

Xia Shuqin, too, was a victim, but of a different kind. She was eight during the 1937 Nanjing Massacre. Seven people in her family of nine were murdered by invading Japanese troops. Only she and her four-year-old sister survived.

American missionary John Magee filmed and included her account in his film documenting the atrocities by Japanese soldiers in Nanjing. However, right-wing Japanese professor Shudo Higashinakano denied Xia's versions of events in his book "The Nanking Massacre: Fact versus Fiction A Historian's Quest for Truth".

Published in 1998, he refers to the massacre as a "myth... perpetrated in Nanking". He referred to Xia and pointed out discrepancies in her accounts as evidence of fabrication. The subsequent two years saw Higashinakano championing this perspective at various seminars. In November 2000, Xia lodged a Chinese civil suit against him for libel. An arduous legal process spanning two countries began.

The Chinese civil court ordered Higashinakano to pay the 1.6 million yuan (US$200,000) in damages but without a procedure to make the ruling stand in Japan, Xia would not receive compensation. In 2003, Higashinakano filed a charge in a Tokyo court against the suit's validity. Arriving in Tokyo, Xia took this opportunity to counter-sue him there. The Tokyo district court ruled in her favour, awarding her damages of 4 million yen (US$38,5000) last November for libel. This May, Tokyo's High Court upheld that ruling. This was hailed in every major Chinese publication even amidst the blitz of coverage on the Sichuan quake.

Returning to Nanjing after the verdict, Xia said she was jubilant. It was sweet victory for a woman from a city that has moved on from the massacre that had so long been its namesake.

Nanjing's massive new train station, done to impress, resembles an international airport. Funded 30% by foreign investment, this is a wealthy modern city with skyscrapers; one which, when completed, will surpass rival city Shanghai's World Financial Centre, already the world's tallest building.

Sino-Japanese relations, too, have altered. China has overtaken the US as Japan's largest trading partner. It is also the second-largest recipient of foreign direct investment from Japan, of which business investment exceeded US$1 billion in 2006.

Economics dictate that both sides stand to gain from ending this decades-old animosity, but Chinese nationalistic fervour cannot be appeased simply by pragmatism.

Xia is the second Chinese to win a suit against right-wing Japanese writers disputing their accounts of the massacre. Li Xiuqin won US$14,000 in damages in her Japanese suit against Toshio Matsumura, author of  "A Big Doubt About the Rape of Nanjing" in 2003.

They are just two compared with the hundreds of thousands killed, raped, or attacked by invading Japanese in Nanjing in 1937. Still, their hard-fought victories awarded by the Japanese will go the distance in restoring wounded national pride and more cordial relations.

These are grander gestures than a memorial erected more than 1,500 km away from Tokyo. There, remorse was translated into every language except official Japanese-speak.



The full version of Shodo Higashinakano's “The Nanking Massacre: Fact versus Fiction A Historian's Quest for Truth” is available online at https://unjobs.org/authors/higashinakano-shudo. References to Xia Shuqin appear on pages 160-162.



Related Stories:

Apology for a Rape

No Comfort for the Women



dan-chyi chua

Dan-Chyi Chua was a broadcast journalist, before forsaking Goggle Box Glitz for the Open Road. A three-year foray led her through the Middle East, China, SE Asia, Latin America and Cuba, and she's now grounded herself as a writer for theasiamag.com, content with spending her days in Jerusalem.

Contact Dan-Chyi