More Japanese firms need to compensate wartime slave laborers

Updated: 2015-07-24 18:45


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BEIJING - More Japanese companies that committed war crimes and corporate wrongdoing in wartime by using Chinese slave laborers need to follow the example of Mitsubishi Materials to show repentance, apoligize and offer due compensation to their victims.

Japan's Mitsubishi Materials is reported to have agreed to offer compensation, though meagre, and apology to forced Chinese laborers it used during World War II (WWII), in what appears to be a first positive step by a wrongdoing Japanese company to seek reconciliation with forced labor victims from China.

The planned apology to forced Chinese laborers reported by Japan's Kyodo News service early Friday came after its unprecedented apology on Sunday to US prisoners of war (POW) used as forced labor by the company, in the year marking the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII.

According to Kyodo News, the company will offer all the 3,765 Chinese victims with a compensation of 2 million yen (about 16,000 US dollars) for each and sincere apology for its wartime wrongdoings to the victims.

Mitsubishi Materials is also reported to have agreed to erect a memorial monument and spend about 200 million yen (about 1.61 million US dollars) to investigate in relevant issues, according to Kyodo.

The news service said that Mitsubishi Materials and the group of Chinese plaintiffs reached an agreement to settle the forced labor case through the compensation and apology arrangement.

However, Mitsubishi Materials on Friday declined to confirm the report, with its publicity official saying that it is inconvenient to comment on the report as the company is still hammering on the details.

About 40,000 Chinese nationals were kidnapped and forcibly brought to Japan during WWII at Tokyo's behest to do hard labor in coalmines and construction sites, the two countries estimate, where harsh conditions led to the death of almost 7,000.

Of the 3,765 Chinese laborers used by Mitsubishi Materials' wartime predecessor Mitsubishi Mining Co., 720 died at the time, and only 1,500 survivors or their relatives have been found, Kyodo said.

Since the 1990s, Chinese survivors have filed a series of lawsuits against the Japanese government and corporations seeking damages for wartime wrongdoings.

However, Japan has been reluctant to grant wartime compensation to individuals, saying their rights to claims were relinquished after a 1972 Sino-Japanese declaration that normalized ties between the two countries.

Experts believe that although China ceased to claim indemnity at the state level out of concern it would harm bilateral ties, individuals are entitled to file compensation suits against Japan and Japanese companies for infringement of human rights.

Therefore, it is illegal and void for Japanese courts to reject individual claims on the arbitrary and wicked interpretation that Chinese individuals have no judicial right to demand war reparations from Japan as the right was abandoned under the Japan-China Joint Statement signed in 1972.

Japanese companies have severely violated the human rights of the forced and enslaved Chinese laborers by taking them to Japan against their will to do hard labor in mines and construction sites. Survivors recalled that living conditions were appalling and many did not make it back to China. These wartime brutalities could never be condoned.

Although those who died of affliction are gone forever, the war crimes and collective wrongdoings committed by the Japanese companies can never be covered up after the deaths of victims, and the Japanese government is bound by both law and morality to take responsibility for all victims.

The Supreme Court of Japan ruled that the Tokyo-based Nishimatsu Construction should pay damages in full to the five plaintiffs in 2007, marking the first time a Japanese high court has ordered the defendant in a series of lawsuits involving forced laborers to pay damages to plaintiffs.

In October 2009, Nishimatsu agreed with five Chinese victims of forced labor during WWII to set up a 250 million yen (2.2 million US dollars) trust fund to redress not only the five but also their 360 former coworkers.

Besides, a monument to remember hundreds of wartime Chinese slave laborers who did hard labor at a construction site was unveiled in the town of Akiota in Hiroshima Prefecture the southwestern coast of Honshu.

The move antecedes and resembles Mitsubishi's plan to compensate Chinese slave laborers, which set an example to both the Japan government and wrongdoing Japanese companies in their endeavor, if any, to settle the long-stalled historical issue and assume responsibilities for their wartime atrocities.