China Calls Japan’s Forced Labor `Serious Crime’ Amid Lawsuit

Japan’s use of forced labor during World War II was a “serious crime,” China Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said today, after a Chinese court accepted a lawsuit against two Japanese companies accused of the practice.

The Beijing No. 1 People’s Court agreed yesterday to hear a lawsuit brought by 40 former workers and their family members against Mitsubishi Materials Corp. and Nippon Coke & Engineering Co., the state-owned Global Times newspaper said.

The laborers and their families demanded 1 million yuan ($161,000) compensation for each victim as well as an open apology in both Chinese and Japanese newspapers, including the People’s Daily and Asahi Shimbun, according to the newspaper.

The use of forced laborers during World War II left physical and mental scars on the victims, Hong said at briefing today.

“China has been urging the Japanese side to be responsible with history,” Hong said.

There is no right to reparations under a joint communique signed between the two countries after the war, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said in Tokyo today, while expressing regret for the workers’ suffering. If the lawsuit is confirmed the government will “deal with it firmly,” he said. Japan is working with the companies on the issue, according to Suga.

“Even though it was wartime, and thus out of the ordinary, it is extremely regrettable that unbearable suffering and sadness was inflicted on many people,” Suga said.

— With assistance by Henry Sanderson

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