70 Years Later, Struggle for Nanking Massacre Justice Continues

A new article discusses why Chinese victims of Japanese aggression during World War II have not received compensation from the Japanese government . This is in contrast to victims of other genocides, such as the Holocaust, who have been more successful at claiming a right to compensation. From The Atlantic:

In a fair post-war world, millions of such victims and their heirs would have been entitled to compensation. But Japan pleaded poverty and, in 1951, in a spirit of Cold War solidarity, the United States led more than 40 nations in renouncing their citizens’ claims on Tokyo. The 1951 agreement did not rule out the possibility that Japan would make payments as its economy recovered. But Tokyo stuck rigidly to its not-a-penny policy, with the assiduous support of the U.S. State Department in fighting off claimants. The State Department even slapped down a number of lawsuits by U.S. servicemen who had suffered abominably in Japanese prisoner of war camps, in many cases serving as de facto slaves, doing the most dangerous and unhealthy jobs in Japanese factories and mines.

Japan’s symbolic support for U.S. foreign policy, most notably the Vietnam war, kept Washington on its side in Tokyo’s reparations diplomacy. Japanese diplomats proved adept at exploiting the State Department’s Cold War neuroses. Greatly exaggerating the influence of the left in Japanese politics, they constantly implied that, absent copious “mutual understanding” in Washington, Japan might switch sides and throw in its lot with the Soviet Union.

Japanese officials feared an inundation of millions of claims from China but, although Beijing never signed the 1951 agreement, they nonetheless successfully kept Chinese claimants at bay for decades. In the late 1970s, China’s new supreme leader Deng Xiaoping was persuaded to take a deal: in return for a promise of billions of dollars in Japanese economic aid and technology transfers over subsequent decades, he signed away Chinese citizens’ rights to remunerations. After that, top officials in Beijing proved almost as assiduous as their counterparts in Tokyo and Washington in sweeping victims’ claims under the rug.

In 2007 the Japanese Supreme Court ruled that Chinese have no right to demand war compensation. From the Japan Times:

In ruling on a lawsuit on Japan’s wartime forced labor, Ryoji Nakagawa, presiding justice at the top court’s second petty bench, said, “Chinese people have lost their rights to judicially claim war compensation from Japan, Japanese people or its companies” under the 1972 Japan-China Joint Communique.

In the communique that normalized Tokyo-Beijing ties, China declared it “renounces its demand for war reparations from Japan.” The declaration, however, did not specifically refer to individual rights to claim.

The top court ruled the communique was “substantially a peace treaty and is a framework like the San Francisco Peace Treaty” signed between Japan and the Allied powers in 1951 that waived all Allied reparation claims — including the right of individuals to seek compensation.

People who have tried to sue for compensation include Chinese who were forced laborers during and Chinese “comfort women”.

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