A Japanese court ordered a construction company to compensate Chinese pressed into slave labor during World War II.
Japan's Hiroshima High Court yesterday reversed a lower court ruling and ordered Nishimatsu Construction Co Ltd to pay the five plaintiffs a total of 27.5 million yen (US$252,600) in compensation, reported the Kyodo news agency.
"The forced labor was an abuse of human rights," the presiding judge said.
In July 2002 a lower court of Hiroshima rejected the lawsuit brought by Shao Yicheng, 78, Song Jiyao, 75, and three other Chinese plaintiffs.
It is the first time that a Japanese high court has ordered damages be paid in this type of lawsuit, Xin Meirong, head of a Chinese support group for the plaintiffs, told Xinhua News Agency.
The decision also cuts down on the time it normally takes the courts to rule on postwar compensation lawsuits, he said.
The ruling said forcibly taking people to Japan and pressing them into slave labor was a serious human rights violation. Bringing up the 10-year statute of limitations was an abuse, the court said.
The judgment may help push forward similar cases, said lawyer Kang Jian, director of Beijing Fangyuan Law Office.
"It would also help spur Japanese politicians to consider a political solution to the issue," said Kang, who has participated in several cases in the past.
Hailing it a "comparatively satisfactory" verdict, Li Zongyuan, an expert with the Museum of Chinese People's War of Resistance against Japan, said it takes "great courage to make such a judgment in Japan at present."
Li said the lawsuit is a single success that sticks out from the fact that 40,000 Chinese laborers were forced to work in Japan.
(China Daily July 10, 2004)