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Laborers demand apology, compensation
By Cao Desheng (China Daily)
Updated: 2004-08-11 02:24

Seven Chinese pensioners forced into slave labor in Japan during World War II lodged a lawsuit in Japan's Miyazaki District Court Tuesday.

Five others, relatives of others who died during their incarceration, are also claiming compensation.

They are demanding apologies and compensation from the Japanese Government for what they or their relatives suffered while working for a mining company owned by the Mitsubishi Corporation in Miyazaki Prefecture during 1944-45.

Twelve laborers from East China's Shandong Province were forcibly taken to Japan at the end of 1944 and mistreated by the company.

Only seven of them returned home when Japan lost the war in 1945, while the others died of hunger or disease.

The seven survivors are in their 70s or 80s and the other five are family dependents of the dead.

Records show that 244 Chinese people were forced into slave labor at the mining company during 1944-45. Seventy-seven of them died of disease, said lawyer Kang Jian, who represents the plaintiffs.

"The suit has been delayed until now because there wasn't an available name list of the all the Chinese laborers in World War II until July last year -- some 60 years after the war ended," said Kang.

On July 18, 2003, Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs was put under a lot of pressure to make public the documents about the wartime labourers.

The documents have provided a great deal of help in finding the survivors, Kang said.

This is the 13th case of Chinese suing the Japanese government and businesses for wartime atrocities.

On July 9, Japan's Hiroshima High Court reversed a lower court ruling and ordered the Nishimatsu Construction Co Ltd to pay five plaintiffs 27.5 million yen (US$252,600) in compensation.

This was the first time a Japanese high court had ordered damages to be paid in this type of lawsuit, Kang said.

"The win became an impetus for more Chinese forced laborers to seek justice," she said.

But some Japanese courts have already rejected demands for compensation made in other Chinese labour cases, insisting a 20-year statute of limitations has expired.

About 40,000 Chinese laborers were forced to work in 135 workplaces for 35 corporations in Japan during World War II. Many of them never made it back home.

Twenty-one of the 35 corporations implicated in the crimes, including the Mitsubishi, Mitsui and Sumintomo Corporation, are still in operation.

"We have strong evidence and we expect the Japanese court to make a just ruling and face up to history," the lawyer said.

"At the same time, we hope Japanese politicians and businesses value and respect human rights, apologize to wartime victims and their relatives and pay proper compensation to them,' she said.

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