Chinese to sue Japanese company over forced labor during WWII

08:39, September 07, 2010      

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About 100 World War II forced laborers in China will file a lawsuit next week against Japanese company Mitsubishi Materials Corp to demand both an apology and compensation, their lawyer said Monday.

This will be the latest lawsuit regarding wartime forced Chinese labor, as similar moves filed against Japan over the past two decades have failed.

The forced workers from the eastern province of Shandong will lodge a suit against Mitsubishi Materials Corp and its subsidiaries in China at the Shandong Higher People's Court next week before Sept. 18, said Fu Qiang, head of Shandong Pengfei Law Office.

Sept. 18 this year marks the 79th anniversary of the Japanese invasion of China.

The workers, all aged over 80, will demand Mitsubishi Materials, which they once were forced to work for, apologize and pay each of the workers compensation of 100,000 yuan (14,730 U.S. dollars), Fu told Xinhua.

Around 40,000 Chinese, one-fourth of whom were from Shandong, were forced to work in Japan during World War II. Of them, 7,000 died there.

Mitsubishi Materials Corp forcibly took more than 2,700 Chinese to work at nine mines, Fu said. He added that Mitsubishi Materials contracted two mines to other Japanese companies that also used forced Chinese laborers.

Most of Mitsubishi Materials' Chinese forced laborers were from Weifang, Jinan and Zibo in Shandong, the lawyer said.

Japanese courts have rejected all compensation claims in 15 lawsuits filed over forced Chinese laborers since the 1990s, saying that individual rights of Chinese nationals for war reparations were discarded under the 1972 Japan-China joint statement.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang said last November that Japan's actions to force and enslave Chinese during World War II were serious militaristic crimes as well as a realistic and grave human rights issue that has not yet been properly resolved.

Qin urged the Japanese government to take a responsible attitude toward history and properly handle this issue.

A local court in Tokyo ruled in July 2001 that the Japanese government should pay 20 million Japanese yen (237,500 U.S. dollars) in compensation to siblings of a deceased forced laborer Liu Lianren. But two higher courts later rejected the verdict.

Liu, who lived in Weifang, was taken away to work at a mine in Japan in September 1944. He fled because of maltreatment in June 1945 and lived in mountain caves for 13 years before being found and sent back to China in 1958.

Later, Mitsubishi Materials' acknowledgement that it did use forced Chinese laborers offered some hope that the workers might some day receive compensation, even through reconciliation, said Liu Huanxin, a 67-year-old son of Liu Lianren.

Two Japanese companies have agreed, after reconciliation, to offer 378 million yen (4.5 million U.S. dollars) in compensation payments to forced Chinese workers and their families in April and in October, 2009. "Some Japanese companies have shifted their attitudes to acknowledge history and assume their responsibilities," said Liu Huanxin. " We are seeing some hope that we can reach reconciliation through negotiations."

"Lawsuits are not the only choice," said Fu. "We are also seeking other ways to receive compensation."

"We have many lists of forced laborers. But many have died and the number of witnesses of that part of history are declining."

About 35 Japanese companies used forced Chinese laborers at 135 working sites, according to Liu Huanxin.

"It's our obligatory responsibility to seek justice for Chinese forced laborers," he said. "We' ll try to get a fair result to comfort the dead laborers and also let those still alive to live the rest of their lives in peace and joy."

Source:Xinhua

(Editor:梁军)

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