Japan co. sets up fund for World War II Chinese labourers

Ulhas Joglekar ulhasj at SPAMbom4.vsnl.net.in
Wed Dec 6 18:12:42 MST 2000


Thursday
30 November 2000

Japan co. sets up fund for World War II Chinese labourers
TOKYO: For decades, Japan has snubbed demands for compensation for
atrocities committed during the nation's colonial years leading up to World
War II.
But a settlement reached Wednesday between a major construction company and
Chinese who filed a lawsuit in Tokyo will offer compensation to hundreds
brutalised as labourers - setting a precedent that will be hard to ignore.
Kajima Corp. agreed to set up a 500 million yen ($4.6 million) fund for
victims of one of Japan's most notorious wartime forced labour camps known
as Hanaoka - a mining town in northern Japan where 418 Chinese died from
beatings, illness and torture.
Experts said the settlement will step up pressure on the government in other
lawsuits filed by victims of Japan's imperialist push through Asia.
"The settlement will serve as a catalyst in the nation's moves to set up a
legal framework to compensate wartime victims," said Shigeru Tokoi, a lawyer
who specialises in human rights issues.
Other Chinese and Koreans forced to work under slave labour conditions have
filed lawsuits against some of Japan's most powerful corporations -
including the Mitsubishi and Mitsui conglomerates.
The fund, agreed upon, Wednesday will be administered by the Chinese Red
Cross. It will assist the families of all 986 Chinese who worked on the
Kajjima project on a river near the mine - not just those who filed the
lawsuit.
The amount Kajima agreed to pay out is unprecedented in a Japanese wartime
compensation suit. The plaintiffs had initially asked for 60 million yen
($545,000) in a lawsuit filed in 1995.
"This is not only a matter of individuals but of relations between China and
Japan," Niimi said. "It will have a big impact" on other compensation
lawsuits.
The Hanaoka case has become one of the most potent symbols of Japan's
brutality toward workers from Asian countries it conquered in the decades
leading to World War II.
Conditions were so bad that workers staged a revolt that was crushed by
Japanese military forces. Many of the workers were tortured and killed
during questioning following the mutiny.
In August, nine Chinese sued two of Japan's biggest conglomerates -
Mitsubishi and Mitsui - for forcing them to work in slavelike conditions
during the war.
Historians estimate that from 1943 to 1945, 38,000 Chinese were shipped to
Japan to work mostly in mines and ports. (AP)
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