Chinese woman who sued over wartime rapes by Japanese soldiers dies

A Chinese woman who joined a lawsuit to seek damages from the Japanese government for repeated rapes by Japanese soldiers during wartime in China died Wednesday in Taiyuan, Shanxi Province, her supporters in Japan said Thursday.

Wan Aihua, who passed away at the age of 83, had been hospitalized since last year following a stroke, they said.

In 1992, Wan testified on her experiences at a hearing organized in Tokyo by Japanese support groups on wartime damage caused by the Japanese military. Six years later, she filed a suit with nine other Chinese women at a Japanese court.

While rejecting their claims for damages, the Tokyo district and high courts acknowledged that the women, who were in their teens and 20s at the time, were raped by multiple Japanese soldiers and expressed hope that the government would act to resolve the issue.

The women's appeal was rejected by the Supreme Court in 2005.

Wan repeatedly visited Japan to testify in court while giving lectures at citizens' meetings nationwide.

"Her testimony encouraged other Chinese victims to rise up" to seek reparations for wartime sexual violence, said Eriko Ikeda, a member of the support group in Japan. "She made people aware that women were raped and tortured under confinement during wartime."

Ikeda also works as director of the Women's Active Museum on War and Peace in Tokyo.

The death of Wan leaves only one plaintiff in the women's suit still alive, according to the group.