Thursday, February 27, 2014

Chinese sue Japan firms over wartime labor

Chinese citizens who say they were forced into labor during World War Two have filed a lawsuit in China against 2 Japanese companies.

The plaintiffs, comprising 37 former laborers and family members, submitted their complaint with a court in Beijing on Wednesday.

A lawyer for the plaintiffs said the laborers were brought to Japan and forced to engage in harsh work. The lawyer said the plaintiffs are demanding Nippon Coke & Engineering Company, formerly Mitsui Mining Company, and Mitsubishi Materials offer each of them an apology and about 167,000 dollars in damages.

Courts in Japan have turned down similar claims filed by former laborers.

The Japanese courts ruled that Chinese citizens have no right to war reparations from Japan, noting that China renounced such claims when Sino-Japanese diplomatic ties were normalized in 1972.

In China, similar lawsuits have been filed with local courts in Hebei and other provinces. So far, none of the complaints have been accepted.

The lawyer filing the new suit says more than 9,000 Chinese worked for the 2 firms during the war, and that the number of plaintiffs will rise if the complaint is accepted.

Chinese courts are said to be influenced by the ruling Communist Party. Attention is focused on whether the Beijing court accepts the case at a time of troubled relations between China and Japan.

Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga told reporters on Wednesday that the government has no comment on the case, because it is a civil suit between Chinese individuals and Japanese companies.

Suga added he believes the views of the Japanese and Chinese governments on the issue remain as those expressed in 1972.