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WW II Chinese Slave Laborers Win Case in Japan
A Japanese court yesterday ordered a major Japanese mining company to pay a total 165 million yen (US$1.29 million) in compensation to 15 Chinese men who were forcibly brought to Japan as slave labors during World War II.

The Fukuoka District Court in southwestern Japan ruled that Mitsui Mining Co. should pay US$86,000 to each plaintiff, said court spokeswoman Mizue Sato.

Yesterday's ruling was the first by a Japanese court to find a Japanese company responsible for taking part in the country's wartime labor force policy, said The Associated Press.

"It is a courageous ruling that may affect other similar pending lawsuits," the plaintiffs' lawyer Toyoji Tachiki said.

Minoru Sasaki, a Mitsui Mining spokesman, said the Tokyo-based company will appeal the verdict.

In the ruling, Fukuoka District Court Judge Motoaki Kimura told the court that the Japanese government and the company "jointly committed an illegal act" by forcibly bringing Chinese to Japan as slave laborers, Kyodo News agency said.

The lawsuit was filed in May 2000 by Zhang Baoheng and eight others, who now live in Hebei Province and Beijing.

Six other Chinese later joined them.

The Japanese military captured an estimated 40,000 Chinese in the early 1940s and shipped them to Japan.

They worked long hours on starvation diets in Japanese coal mines and ports.

Zhang and the others were between the ages of 18 and 25 when they were taken to Miike and other mines in Fukuoka prefecture, 899 kilometers southwest of Tokyo.

In a July 2001 ruling, a Tokyo court ordered the Japanese government to pay US$156,000 to relatives of a Chinese man who was forced to work at a mine on Japan's northern main island of Hokkaido during the war. The man fled his Japanese captors and lived more than 10 years in the wilderness of northern Japan.

He died in 2000 at age 87.

Despite criticism both at home and abroad that Japan has not fully shown remorse for its wartime brutality, Tokyo has claimed that the issue of damages was settled in postwar treaties.

Chinese, Koreans and others from Asian countries were forced to work under harsh conditions during World War II.

They have sued major Japanese corporations in Japanese and US courts.

(eastday.com April 28, 2002)

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