Sunday, July 25, 2004

Documentary about effects of Japanese chemical weapons in China

In my last post I mentioned brave people who take the Japanese government to court, often for offenses committed during the Japanese colonial period and invasion of China. I said that their cases typically drag on for many years. One reason is that whenever a court finds against the Japanese government it appeals to a higher court, which delays any compensation payment and brings the case in front of judges who are closer to the higher echelons of the Japanese elite and far less likely to rock the boat than a judge from a district court.
This is exactly what has happened in the case of Liu Min, Li Chen and eleven others who are suing for compensation for injury to their relatives from Japanese chemical weapons left in China after the Japanese retreated in 1945.
Now Japanese filmmaker Kana Tomoko has made a documentary about Chinese people injured this way, From the Land of Bitter Tears:
Kana said she decided to make the film after meeting 27-year-old Liu Min while touring China with friends last summer.

Liu, whose 40-year-old father was killed in 1995 when an abandoned artillery shell accidentally exploded in the city of Harbin, Heilongjiang Province, is one of 13 plaintiffs seeking compensation from Japan. Liu's father's limbs were blown off. He suffered massive burns and died 17 days after the blast.

Then a 19-year-old with hopes of becoming a schoolteacher, Liu has since been working at her relative's cafeteria without rest. And her family has little prospect of paying off her father's medical bills.

"I was shocked by the fact that a woman her age was suffering from the aftereffects of the war," Kana said. "While I initially had no intention to make a film on this issue, once I learned of her suffering, I had no choice."

Kana captured the emotional roller coaster Liu and three other victims from separate incidents has been on, including the scene of Liu giving a tearful hug to her mother while the mother burst into tears, confessing that it was she who pulled the plug on her husband.

The mother could not pay the medical bills and thus took him out of the hospital. He died the following day.

Kana's camera also caught Liu and fellow plaintiff Li Chen flying to Japan to take in the Sept. 29 ruling at the Tokyo District Court, and their excitement after the landmark decision to award the plaintiffs a combined 190 million yen in damages.

Their elation abruptly ended four days later when the government filed an appeal against the ruling.

Kana directed, shot and edited the documentary herself, paying most of the 4 million yen cost. Her filmmaking was zealously covered by Chinese media, and she was featured last month on a 30-minute prime time program by China Central Television, the national TV network in China.

The appeals court case by the 13 plaintiffs, including Liu and Li, is pending before the Tokyo High Court. A third session is set for Sept. 13.
Read the whole Japan Times article here.

The weapons left behind in China have received little attention in the Japanese press, but a lot in China. The court case may be one reason why the Japanese government has now finally paid for the chemical weapon sites in Heilongjiang (in north east China) to be cleaned up, as reported here by AFP and here by Xinhua.

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