The Tokyo High Court on Thursday denied compensation to the family of a deceased forced laborer from China who escaped from a work site toward the close of World War II and hid in mountains for about 13 years unaware the war had ended.
The high court overturned a 2001 Tokyo District Court decision that marked the first time a Japanese court had awarded compensation to a foreign national forcibly brought to Japan for labor during the war.
The lower court had said it awarded the redress not to compensate for forced labor but rather to acknowledge the state's negligence in finding and protecting Liu Lianren, who continued to hide in the mountains in Hokkaido following Japan's surrender.
The high court acknowledged the government's failure to protect him was wrong but rejected the family's demand for compensation for damages from the state, saying there was no mutual agreement concerning state redress between Japan and China.
The Japanese government appealed the July 2001 ruling, arguing that it did not have an obligation to rescue Liu because he ran away.
The government also argued that the plaintiff had lost his right to seek compensation in the case as he failed to file a suit before a 20-year statute of limitations expired, as stipulated in Japan's Civil Code.
After Japan's defeat, the government was obliged to protect people forcibly brought to Japan, with the General Headquarters of the Allied Forces ordering Japan to send them home, the district court said in July 2001.
According to the 2001 ruling, Liu was forcibly brought to Japan in September 1944 from his home in east China's Shandong Province. He was taken to Japan through Qingdao with some 800 other Chinese.
Liu was forced to work at a mine in the town of Numata, northwestern Hokkaido, from where he ran away with four other forced Chinese laborers in April 1945 and continued to hide in the mountains until being found in February 1958.
Liu lodged a suit in March 1996. His eldest son, Liu Huanxin, took over the suit after he died in September 2000 at the age of 87.
The family of Liu and their lawyers expressed disappointment and protest against the high court ruling, urging the Japanese government to make comprehensive efforts in solving the issue of forced Chinese laborers.
"We have decided to appeal to the supreme court of Japan until a just ruling is obtained," Liu Huanxin said.
(Xinhua News Agency June 24, 2005)