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Beijing court to hear Japanese wartime forced labor suit

37 Comments

A Beijing court has for the first time agreed to hear a lawsuit by Chinese citizens demanding compensation from Japanese firms for World War II forced labor, their lawyer said.

Japan Wednesday described the court's decision as "seriously" worrying.

Kang Jian, an attorney for the plaintiffs, confirmed to AFP the decision Tuesday by the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People's Court, which follows several failed attempts to bring such cases in both China and Japan.

The move comes in defiance of Tokyo, which argues such cases are barred by international agreement, and with relations between the Asian giants at their lowest point in decades.

Tokyo's top spokesman reiterated the country's apology for forced labor Wednesday and said the case could worsen ties further. China's foreign ministry renewed its call for Japan to "properly handle this issue left over from history".

Beijing regularly accuses Japan of failing to properly acknowledge and learn from its aggression during World War II, while Tokyo says its neighbors use history as a diplomatic stick to beat it with.

Chinese courts are controlled by the ruling Communist Party.

"We received a notice from the court that the case has been accepted," Kang said.

"Based on the evidence and the facts at hand, there's no reason they shouldn't rule that the companies are responsible," she added.

Two survivors and 35 people whose relatives were forced laborers filed the suit in late February against Japan's Mitsubishi Materials Corporation and Nippon Coke & Engineering Company, formerly known as Mitsui Mining.

Kang said Wednesday that an additional three relatives had joined the suit, upping the total number of plaintiffs to 40.

The laborers and their relatives are demanding one million yuan ($161,000) in compensation for each worker, as well as apologies printed in Chinese and Japanese newspapers.

Tens of thousands of Chinese were forcibly sent to Japan to work in factories and mines to fill a manpower shortage arising from Japan's massive World War II military mobilisation.

Japan had invaded China during the 1930s and the Asian mainland was a major front in the global conflict.

Japanese courts have rejected numerous similar cases filed there over the years, with the country's Supreme Court ruling in 2007 that individual Chinese cannot demand compensation from Japan.

The court said China gave up its right to make such claims when the countries normalised relations more than four decades ago.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga, Japan's top government spokesman, on Wednesday expressed remorse for forced labor, but maintained that a 1972 joint communique nullified Chinese rights to demand war-related compensation.

"Regarding the forced recruitment and labor of Chinese people, the government cannot deny that many people fell into unfortunate situations in those days," Suga told reporters.

"We think it was extremely regrettable that (Japan) caused unbearable suffering and sorrow for many people, even though it was in the abnormal situation of war."

But he said the court case raised troubling questions.

"We cannot help worrying seriously about the possible impact on the war settlement between Japan and China and bilateral economic relations as it could trigger similar cases in China," Suga said.

At a regular briefing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei called on Tokyo to reflect on its wartime misdeeds and said the decision to accept the case was "made by Chinese courts in accordance with the law".

"Forced recruitment of laborers was a serious crime committed by Japan during World War II, which caused great damages to the physical and mental condition of Chinese victims," Hong said.

The Beijing court's acceptance of the case follows a separate lawsuit filed against both companies as well as the Japanese government earlier this month in Hebei province.

Zhang Yang, the son of one of the surviving laborers, told a news conference in Beijing the court's decision meant his father "finally has something to look forward to", according to the state-run Global Times newspaper.

"At the age of 88, he still remembers when, where and how he was captured," Zhang said. "He still remembers the look of the coal mine he was forced to work at and many other details."

© (c) 2014 AFP

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

37 Comments
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There is only one judgement for the hearing. It's very predictable. Prepare your money J-companies, we will now witness a very bias China-style justice. If the chinese are to sue their government for Mao's genocide it'll be a lost for the plaintiffs. But, if it's Japan, the story is not the same. Good luck.

1 ( +8 / -7 )

This effectively puts he last nail into the coffin. China does not respect international treaties, meaning no foreign companies are completely without risk. The rest of us countries, who unlike China (PRC) actually fought each other in WWII have signed treaties and gone forward to improve relations and alliances. China, the world leader in going backwards.

3 ( +11 / -8 )

The CCP have no respect for international law, and as there is no independent Chinese judiciary it means the law is whatever the CCP chooses it to be on its whims. These facts alone mean that any ruling by Chinese courts won't hold water outside of China and no democratic nation would enforce it. It's nothing more than a propaganda exercise cloaked in a mantle of faux legality.

CCP, get back to us when you understand the concept of 'Separation of Powers', and make it the basis of Chinese society.

7 ( +11 / -4 )

It will probably be a show trial. I doubt that it against any treaty for the trial, just the enforcement of a neg. discussion. But if the lawyers were smart, they should have brought the case to the Hague. Japan is on very loose morale grounds but stronger legal grounds. This one of the reasons that Abe's grandfather was arrested for war crimes.

-2 ( +4 / -6 )

Japan Wednesday described the court’s decision as “seriously” worrying.

I'm sure it's seriously worrying to them that they can't hide behind their borders and their ineffectual legal system, and may end up having to be taken to account for their crimes for once.

-8 ( +2 / -10 )

San Francisco Peace Treatry, in effect, prohibits Japan from paying compensation to war victims. Read Article 14(b) and Article 26. http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Treaty_of_San_Francisco

The claims of compensation against Japan for focer labor during WW2 were brought to US court several years ago. They were all turned down. http://www.gwu.edu/~memory/data/judicial/POWs_and_Forced_Labor_US/ClassAction/Sept212000Decision.pdf

2 ( +7 / -5 )

Can the Japanese and Chinese governments get together and sign away rights to sue each other for past wrongs? Yes they can.

Can the Japanese and Chinese governments get together and sign away the rights of citizens to sue the governments for past wrongs? No they can't.

Can the Japanese and Chinese governments get together and sign away the rights of citizens to sue private companies for past wrongs? That question is so fundamentally ridiculous its not even funny. This is what is happening people.

“We cannot help worrying seriously about the possible impact on the war settlement between Japan and China and bilateral economic relations as it could trigger similar cases in China,” Suga said.

Suga cares nothing about truth, justice or the suffering and unpaid labor of those innocent people. He only cares about macro-economics, and I bet he has a personal financial stake in them as well the obvious political stakes.

I am sick of the Japanese government not only weaseling out of responsibility, but also getting private companies out of their responsibility.

-7 ( +3 / -10 )

These cases need to be nipped in the bud.

3 ( +7 / -4 )

Must also hear present and recent forced labor prisoner /petitioner abuses

3 ( +4 / -1 )

This still has the stench of political theater about it. While not exactly a show trial in the Chinese legal tradition, one might assume that these court cases will make interesting viewing if the Chinese government decides to broadcast them. Then again, where does one stop? Forced labor in China has many incarnations. It would be interesting to see somebody attempt to take on the party and seek recompense for the massive "rural interludes" that was forced on people during climatic Chinese events such as the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

Imperious_BastidMar. 20, 2014 - 09:27AM JST

Can the Japanese and Chinese governments get together and sign away the rights of citizens to sue the governments for past wrongs? No they can't.

Can the Japanese and US governments get together and sign away the rights of citizens to sue the governments for past wrongs?

US court heard the case and the answer was, "Yes, they can." http://www.gwu.edu/~memory/data/judicial/POWs_and_Forced_Labor_US/ClassAction/Sept212000Decision.pdf

1 ( +5 / -4 )

US court heard the case and the answer was, "Yes, they can."

Do you know the difference between a POW and a private citizen? Apparently not.

NEXT!

-6 ( +2 / -8 )

Kang Jian, an attorney for the plaintiffs, confirmed to AFP the decision Tuesday by the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court, which follows several failed attempts to bring such cases in both China and Japan.

Propaganda isn't going so well for the Communist. Now, they are resorting to their Kangaroo Court to try and get more money out of Japan.

Communist China and it's tributary state of South Korea keep to their scripts.

Chinese courts are controlled by the ruling Communist Party.

Translation: It's a Kangaroo Court...........

0 ( +6 / -6 )

The best solution is for Japan to do it voluntarily.

By the way, to those ignoramus, San Francisco Peace Treaty has nothing to do with China. China never recognizes it.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

@Imperious_Bastid

(b) Except as otherwise provided in the present Treaty, the Allied Powers waive all reparations claims of the Allied Powers, other claims of the Allied Powers and their nationals arising out of any actions taken by Japan and its nationals in the course of the prosecution of the war, and claims of the Allied Powers for direct military costs of occupation.

Source: http://www.taiwandocuments.org/sanfrancisco01.htm

2 ( +3 / -1 )

Boy, I sure hope all those who down voted me get slaved and then have their very own government sign away their right to compensation. Maybe then the ridiculousness of the idea that they can do it and its judiciously legit will sink in?

Sorry, but if the PRC wants to pretend to be a signatory to the San Francisco Peace Treaty

Neither the ROC nor the PRC were invited to the proceedings. The PRC formally denounced the treaty in 1951. The treaty does not apply to China.

What does apply to China is the Joint Communiqué of the Government of Japan and the Government of the People's Republic of China from 1972. They only point of it relevant here is:

The Government of the People's Republic of China declares that in the interest of the friendship between the Chinese and the Japanese peoples, it renounces its demand for war reparation from Japan.

There is nothing there barring individual Chinese citizens from claiming slavery compensation and back pay from the private Japanese companies that slaved them.

-6 ( +5 / -11 )

@Imperious_Bastid

..... get slaved and then have their very own government sign away their right to compensation. Maybe then the ridiculousness of the idea that they can do it and its judiciously legit will sink in

Like the Chinese government has done and still does do to their country men? (like you if you don't meat your quota or something??)

2 ( +6 / -4 )

Communist China and it's tributary state of South Korea keep to their scripts.

China does not follow the tenets of communism, and therefore is not communist.

-4 ( +3 / -7 )

Like the Chinese government has done and still does do to their country men?

Hypocrisy never nullified the truth. Not even once. There is no way that I am going to sit here and advocate that individual citizens be denied their due because the PRC government is an ass. I am sure your government has done something wrong in the past. Should I hold you accountable?

-5 ( +2 / -7 )

...You sure are doing it... aren't you?

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Readers, please stop bickering. Focus your comments on the story and not at each other.

@Imperious_Bastid,

I up-voted your last post. I didn't realize China was not a signatory of the San Francisco peace treaty. I apologize for my mistake. I was completely ignorant of the situation. There does seem to technically be legal justification for this lawsuit given the wording of the communiqué.

That being said, this lawsuit has the full-support of the Chinese Communist Party, and (if it even gets to court) no judge will rule in favor of the Japanese regardless of the evidence, or lack thereof. It is a mock trial, from a regime with one of the worst human rights records in the world. These workers aren't to blame for this, but will a court hear a civil action lawsuit against the Chinese government for the Tianamen Square Massacre? How about the destruction of property, and deaths during the cultural revolution? I think we all know the answer to that, which makes this all the more slimy (e.g., the use of these people's hardships for political reasons, not the hardships themselves).

Ultimately, are these workers entitled to some form of compensation? If it can be substantiated that they were forced laborers, then it would appear they can indeed exploit this "loophole" in the wording of the agreement (which clearly was meant to cover private lawsuits given China's history on issues such as this). However, this is a clearly a political move, not some triumph of justice.

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

I'm more concerned about the business fallout on both sides. A lot of Japanese manufacturers have opened branches in China because of the cheap labour, availability of raw materials, etc. If they suddenly find themselves facing billions of yen in lawsuits then they may have to relocate elsewhere (India, Thailand, Philippines, etc.). This would be very expensive for the companies and would damage the Japanese and Chinese economies. Of course I don't feel a thing for the Chinese economy, but this entire thing is bad for business.

-6 ( +3 / -9 )

. I apologize for my mistake.

Thumbs up for your humility MGigante, and the courage to lay it out there.

then it would appear they can indeed exploit this "loophole" in the wording of the agreement (which clearly was meant to cover private lawsuits given China's history on issues such as this).

The Chinese government sucks. I don't deny it. But fair is fair. Neither government has any right to deny citizens their fair due. And that is one reason the Japanese government also sucks.

But I do not understand what you mean by China's history on this making it clear the agreement was meant to cover private lawsuits. Not that I would agree even if proven it was. Governments simply have no right. But I am curious what you mean.

-4 ( +1 / -5 )

Obviously many people here do not understand how the courts in China work or believe that there is uniformity in decision. The courts here can work to Japanese companies' advantage or at least to minimal disadvantage if they have the right legal brains and know how. So stop whining and get the act together through the court and outside the court! Remember it is not true that China need not work with Japan. Japan just have to be cleverer like some other previous governments that were welcome in China!

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

Propaganda isn't going so well for the Communist. Now, they are resorting to their Kangaroo Court to try and get more money out of Japan.

Communist China and it's tributary state of South Korea keep to their scripts.

@JoeBigs - interesting that Korea is not mentioned in this article but you bring out the 'tributary state of South Korea' line to score a point..

-1 ( +5 / -6 )

"Beijing court to hear Japanese wartime forced labor suit"

Stupid Chinese Government. What took them so long? They should have done that long time ago.

-4 ( +4 / -8 )

there is no independent Chinese judiciary it means the law is whatever the CCP chooses it to be on its whims.

SecularBeast nails it. The "judge" will be whatever flunky the CCP told to sit there, and he will say exactly what he was told to say. The free world laughs at the commies court system. Any judgement they hand down is illegitimate by definition.

0 ( +4 / -4 )

It's funny, China ask justice for japanese past crimes in far wartime and torture and arest own citizens daily and support NK regime that massacre all own people.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

International treaties and international laws take a backseat when the hypocrisy of propaganda are being used.

Communist China and it's tributary state of South Korea are using the same tactic. Take Japan to their nationalistic kangaroo courts and try and syphon as much cash as they can that way.

The two of them don't give a hell about their standing treaties.

Once a rogue nation always a rogue nation.

Japan needs to rid itself of Article 9 and take it's place on the world stage not as a stepping stone, but as a modern nation.

Time to end the threat of another Chinese invasion from the Korean peninsula, it's not 1274.

Imperious_BastidMar. 20, 2014 - 12:31PM JST Hypocrisy never nullified the truth. Not even once. There is no way that I am going to sit here and advocate that individual citizens be denied their due because the PRC government is an ass.

So, you are opposed to international treaties that nations like China, South Korea and Japan have signed?

MGiganteMar. 20, 2014 - 01:04PM JST I up-voted your last post. I didn't realize China was not a signatory of the San Francisco peace treaty.

Communist China wasn't a signatory to the San Francisco treaty for two reason's.

One they weren't the recognized representatives of China and second they themselves didn't want to be one.

Now, the really funny part is that Communist China objected to almost every part of that treaty. What they had zero objections to was the Senkaku Islands. They didn't give two cents about the islands from 1949 until 1969. Hell, they considered those islands just a bunch of worthless rocks.

Well, that was until 1969......

The reason they changed their minds was that Oil was discovered under those islands. The minute oil was founds the Communist draped a flag over the islands and cried crocodile tears.

BTW most Communist like to omit this fact when they spout their propaganda.

Asian2013Mar. 20, 2014 - 04:09PM JST Obviously many people here do not understand how the courts in China work or believe that there is uniformity in decision

So now you are actually trying to say that Communist China's courts aren't controlled by the CPC?

JohnY921Mar. 20, 2014 - 05:45PM JST Stupid Chinese Government. What took them so long? They should have done that long time ago.

Are you trying to say that Communist China was a nation during WWII?

Mitch CohenMar. 20, 2014 - 04:36PM JST @JoeBigs - interesting that Korea is not mentioned in this article but you bring out the 'tributary state of South Korea' line to score a point..

Then you should keep up better with the news....

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/02/27/national/south-koreans-sue-mhi-over-war-labor/#.UyrWiaOIqJA

Or here

http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/02/22/national/wartime-labor-case-brews-in-south-korea/#.UyrXa6OIqJA

Happy to help you see the hypocrisy of the propaganda being orchestrated by Communist China and it's tributary states.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

Mitsui and Mitsubishi can afford to pay if they lose. We have to watch exodus of their branches in China, Where? Vietnam and other SE Asian countries? But this is a lawsuit by a group of citizens. Chinese Govt earns nothing, How court handle, we have to wait. We don;t know how much will be awarded to these people.

-3 ( +2 / -5 )

The Kangaroos with be out in force to steal the property in China that those companies have there.

Wait for it for every Japanese company in China will lose everything there due to this Kangaroo court.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

@Imperious_Bastid,

What I mean is that the Chinese government has traditionally thrown out these types of cases. So, I think its safe to assume that the PRC recognized that individual claims were implicitly invalid under the the terms of the agreement.

Why haven't we seen these sorta of things before? Its because the Chinese government buried them when relations were good between the two countries.

Whatever side you stand on this issue, it is undeniable that China is using this as a political stunt to put pressure on Japan. Again, truth has very little to do with it. There could be a mountain of evidence to support the companies' innocence, but it wouldn't matter.

You can argue that hypocrisy does not negate the crimes, but at the same time it makes it very problematic to say a hypocritical court, putting on a show trial is dispensing justice and truth.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

China's fall to the Korean (dark) side of the force.

They have thrown away their pride as a big power and taken the same tactics as South Korea is taking, such as tattletale dipromacy. They might be in more difficult situation currently than we think.

Anyway, on the internet in Japan, it is ridiculed as "Kankokumen ni ochiru (fall to the Korean side)" punning "Ankokumen ni ochiru (fall to the dark side)"

1 ( +2 / -1 )

Just as I predicted. It is now open season on Japanese firms involved in slavery during ww2. They never should have accepted the South Korean ruling.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Lots of people from many different countries were used as slave labor for Japanese companies during WW2. POWs from western countries have also sought compensation. Mitsubishi etc could have created a lot of goodwill by making amends after the war. (As some German companies did).

But, given that the war finished 70 years ago and forcing companies to pay out would create a precedent that would have huge ramifications, they should just leave this. We have enough problems in the world without trying to right the wrongs of so long ago.

But, easy for me to say.

-2 ( +1 / -3 )

Forced labour is not the only thing Japan did. The lawsuit should also include the millions of Japanese military money which was forced upon Asians in exchange for goods and services, and the refusal of Japan to take back this valueless money after the war is another such deed.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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