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Japanese Compensation on Its Way After 60 Years
"Sixty years! I've spent nearly six decades waiting for my pay from the Japanese," Ye Yongcai, a 76-year-old man told Xinhua.

A Japanese court on April 27 ordered the Mistui Mining Co. to pay US$1.28 million in damages to 15 Chinese men forcibly taken to Japan to toil in the company's coal mines during World War II. Ye was one of them.

"The compensation cannot erase the tortures and hardship we endured," said Ye with shaking lips. He was taken by the Japanese company in the winter of 1943 when he was only 16 years old and was forced to work in its mine.

Historical data shows that about 39,000 Chinese were transported to Japan by the Japanese invaders during World War II. They were locked in the hulls of ships and transported to Japan for hard labor in factories and mines for no pay as Japan tried to keep its war machine going.

"In the Japanese mine, I even wanted to commit suicide for the work was too hard and I was so tired," said Ye. He told Xinhua that after being locked up at the mine sites, they were numbered and sent to excavate coal.

In the hot tunnels filled with coal dust and unbearable noise, Ye and his compatriots were forced to load and unload coal without rest, suffering abuse and beatings from their supervisors.

"Look at this scar, it was made by a Japanese saw," Ye said, indicating a 2-inch scar on his forehead. He explained that his work began from 8 o'clock on the morning to six o'clock in the evening with a lunch in the mine, and then the next shift would take over.

Once a Japanese supervisor asked him to lift a log, which was too heavy for him. He was unable to lift it and the supervisor nicked his forehead with a saw. The foul working air and arduous physical labor made the workers prone to catching various diseases. Ye noted that they could not even cope with common flu or food-poisoning.

Worst of all was the enduring torture of hunger, and all he could think about was food. He could hardly even remember his relatives during that period.

Most slave laborers were so weak that they could not escape and fight against the Japanese.

"It was hard for me to imagine that I could return to my hometown one day if Japan was not defeated," said Ye.

He was rescued in August 1945 without receiving any pay for his labor in the mines.

He tried hard in the six decades since to seek compensation from the Japanese coal mine.

"The compensation from the Japanese government is just a matter of time, but it comes too late," sighed Ye.

(Xinhua News Agency May 6, 2002)

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