Around Asia: China lodges suit against Japanese firms

Chinese citizens have accused two Japanese firms of wartime slavery in a lawsuit demanding apologies and compensation for forced laborers during World War II.

Thirty-seven former laborers and family members lodged the suit with the First Intermediate People’s Court of Beijing against Nippon Coke & Engineering Co, formerly Mitsui Mining Co, and Mitsubishi Materials Corp which allegedly forced them into hard labor during the war.

A lawyer for the plaintiffs said the victims are demanding the firms to offer each of them a public apology and about $167,000 in damages for “infringing human rights”.

The apologies would be printed in newspaper ads in Japan and China, the lawyer said.

This is the first time the Chinese war laborers filed a class-action case in a Chinese court. Dozens of wartime compensation suits have been filed by Chinese and South Korean citizens in Japan, but almost all have been rejected by Japanese courts.

“As there is no way to get justice in Japan, the Chinese victims of forced labor and their families are determined to sue in China the Japanese companies which did them harm,” Zhang Shang, a member of the class-action suit, told the official China News Service.

Japanese courts ruled that Chinese citizens have no right to war reparations from Japan, noting that China renounced such claims by a 1972 joint statement establishing Sino-Japanese diplomatic ties.

At a news conference in Tokyo on Wednesday, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga stressed there has been no dispute over China’s right to claim war-related compensation. He declined to further comment saying the case was a civil suit between Chinese individuals and Japanese companies.

A Mitsubishi Materials spokesman said the company was unable to comment because it did not know the details of the latest case.

The bitter territorial row and deep-seated animosity continue to tarnish already fraught relations between Beijing and Tokyo. China has long accused Japan of showing a lack of remorse for its wartime atrocities.

By Maesie Bertumen

Main Image: Flickr/7-how-7

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