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Saturday, Nov. 3, 2007

Nanjing survivor wins ¥4 million in libel suit


Staff writer

The Tokyo District Court ordered a Japanese historian and a publishing house Friday to pay a combined ¥4 million in compensation for calling a Nanjing Massacre survivor an impostor.

Xia Shuqin, 78, who lost seven family members during an attack by the Imperial Japanese Army in 1937, sued Shudo Higashinakano and Tokyo-based publisher Tendensha in May 2006.

In his book "The Nanking Massacre: Fact versus Fiction — A Historian's Quest for Truth," Higashinakano said Xia's accounts were faked, charging she was merely posing as a victim in what the author claims was never a massacre of Chinese civilians by Japanese troops.

Presiding Judge Michiyo Miyokawa ruled the contents of the publication "severely infringed on the dignity of the plaintiff."

"Any academic would recognize the absurdity and contradiction of its theory," Miyokawa said regarding Higashinakano's book.

Historians differ over the number of civilians killed by the Japanese army during its 1937 invasion of Nanjing. Some conservative lawmakers and Japanese academics even assert that no large-scale massacre took place.

Friday's ruling did not refer to the extent of the atrocities committed in Nanjing, but it acknowledged that the book lacked evidence that could discredit the victim. Higashinakano "defamed the plaintiff, who is widely known as a survivor of the Nanjing (Massacre)," the court said.

Xia welcomed the ruling, telling reporters that Higashinakano "lied and spread wrongful information" in his publication. "Higashinakano is an insolent man," she said after the ruling.

According to Xia's accounts, some 20 Imperial army soldiers stormed into her house at around 10 a.m. on Dec. 13, 1937. Xia and her younger, 4-year-old sister survived the intrusion despite being bayoneted — but all seven other members of her family, including a newborn, were slaughtered.

Xia was filmed after the attack by a U.S. missionary serving with the Red Cross in Nanjing — a scene frequently cited by historians as key evidence of the massacre.

In his book, Higashinakano argues that there were inconsistencies in many of Xia's recollections, and that the 8-year-old captured on the missionary's film is a different person.

During the trial, the author, a history professor at Asia University in Tokyo, denied that his publication was intended to defame the plaintiff, claiming the book was merely the result of freedom of research.

However, Judge Miyokawa stated that his argument put forward in the book that Xia is not the girl in the film "cannot be certified as the truth."

In a statement, Higashinakano indicated he would appeal.

Katsuhiko Takaike, a lawyer representing Tendensha, also said the ruling infringes on the author's right to freedom of academic research.

Xia's attorneys, which had demanded ¥15 million as compensation, said Higashinakano never contacted Xia to verify his theory and charged that his book was an attempt to whitewash the massacre.



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