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Chinese forced labourers win suit in Japan
By Jiang Zhuqing (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-07-10 00:32

A Japanese court ordered a construction company to compensate Chinese pressed into labour during World War II.

Japan's Hiroshima High Court Friday reversed a lower court ruling and ordered Nishimatsu Construction Co Ltd to pay the five plaintiffs a total of 27.5 million yen (US$252,600) in compensation, reported the Kyodo news agency.

"The forced labour was an abuse of human rights," the presiding judge said.

In July 2002 a lower court of Hiroshima rejected the lawsuit brought by Shao Yicheng, 78, Song Jiyao, 75, and three other Chinese plaintiffs.

It is the first time that a Japanese high court has ordered damages be paid in this type of lawsuit, Xin Meirong, head of a Chinese support group for the plaintiffs, told Xinhua News Agency.

The decision also cuts down on the time it normally takes the courts to rule on postwar compensation lawsuits, he said.

The ruling said forcibly taking people to Japan and pressing them into labour was a serious human rights violation. Bringing up the 10-year statute of limitations was also an abuse, the court said.

The judgment may help push forward similar cases, said lawyer Kang Jian, the director of the Beijing Fangyuan Law Office.

"It would also help spur Japanese politicians to consider a political solution to the issue," said Kang, who has participated in several cases in the past.

Dozens of wartime compensation suits have been filed against Japan's government and companies, she said.

Hailing it a "comparatively satisfactory" verdict, Li Zongyuan, an expert with the Museum of Chinese People's War of Resistance against Japan, said it takes "great courage to make such a judgment in Japan at present."

However, Li said, winning the lawsuit is a single success that sticks out from the fact that 40,000 Chinese labourers were forced to work in Japan, he said.

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