|Relatives of deceased Chinese forced laborers, accompanied by lawyer Kang Jian (center, in blue coat), attend Beijing No 1 Intermediate People’s Court on Wednesday to sue two Japanese companies over forced labor during World War II. The lawsuit seeks printed apologies to be carried in Chinese and Japanese newspapers as well as compensation from the Japanese companies. WANG JING / CHINA DAILY |
Plaintiffs seek apologies, compensation as they lodge class-action case for first time
Thirty-seven Chinese citizens filed a lawsuit in a Beijing court on Wednesday demanding Japanese apologies and compensation for forced labor during World War II.
It is the first time that Chinese forced laborers and their relatives have lodged such a class-action case in a Chinese court. Observers said the case will increase pressure on Japan to correct its interpretation of its militarist history.
The forced laborers and their relatives want apologies to be carried in mainstream media in China and Japan, as well as compensation from Mitsubishi Materials and Mitsui Mining and Smelting.
Kang Jian, a lawyer for the plaintiffs, said the lawsuit is aimed at safeguarding the victims' dignity and human rights.
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.
In 1998, five Chinese survivors of World War II and relatives of other Chinese nationals filed seven lawsuits in Japan against Nishimatsu Construction, alleging that the company forcibly brought Chinese individuals to Hiroshima prefecture during the war and used them as forced labor to build the Yasuno power plant.
The allegations were dismissed by Hiroshima District Court in 2002.
Two years later, Hiroshima High Court reversed the district court's decision and ordered Nishimatsu to pay damages to the plaintiffs.
However, in 2007 Nishimatsu filed an appeal with the Japanese Supreme Court.
The top court, in the final verdict, recognized that construction of the power plant by the company subjected Chinese victims to work in conditions that caused them mental and physical pain, but still dismissed the plaintiffs' compensation claim.
"The Japanese court's move hurt us. We can't accept such an attitude toward history," 58-year-old Liu Guolian, daughter of a laborer, told China Daily on Wednesday.