Subject: [cwj 85] Japan downplays Chinese war enslavement lawsuit in US
From: Corporate Watch in Japanese <>
Date: Wed, 23 Aug 2000 13:44:10 -0700
Seq: 85

For more info on forced labor and Japanese corporations, see

Wednesday, August 23 2:13 PM SGT 

Japan downplays Chinese war enslavement lawsuit in US

TOKYO, Aug 23 (AFP) - 

Japan Wednesday downplayed a lawsuit filed in the United States alleging
that two Japanese conglomerates forced thousands of
Chinese citizens into slave labour during World War II.

"This lawsuit is reported to be a private case in which the Japanese
government does not seem to be involved," a foreign ministry
official said.

"But personally, I have some doubt over whether a Californian state court
can have jurisdiction over matters already resolved by both
the Japanese and Chinese governments," he said.

The lawsuit was filed in Los Angeles on Tuesday by four Chinese-Americans
and five Chinese nationals against Japanese
conglomerates Mitsubishi and Mitsui.

It alleges the giant trading houses enslaved Chinese nationals to work in
mines and factories in brutal conditions. Japan occupied a
large swathe of China during their 1937-1945 war.

Spokesmen for Mitsubishi and Mitsui in Tokyo declined to comment, saying
the companies had yet to receive a copy of the lawsuit. 

Japan and China formally wrapped up hostilities in a peace treaty signed in
1978, six years after Japan formally recognised Beijing
instead of Taiwan. 

The treaty, however, left open the possibility of individuals suing
Japanese companies, said another foreign ministry official. 

"The Japanese government cannot nullify their rights to do so, but the
Japan-China joint communique signed in 1972 does say that the
right to seek compensation by either government was abandoned," he said. 

Japan's government has fought off compensation bids from former prisoners
of war lodged in Japanese courts by pointing to its
comprehensive 1951 San Francisco peace settlement with the Allies. 

But the nine California plaintiffs, advised by lawyers who have extracted
compensation over the use of slave labour by Nazi Germany,
are seeking to turn the case into a wider class-action lawsuit. 

Four of the plaintiffs live in California and five in Beijing. More are
expected to be added to the suit against Mitsubishi and Mitsui. 

No dollar amount was specified in the complaint.

But attorney David Grosz said a case against Swiss banks holding Jewish
war-time assets was settled for 1.25 billion dollars, while
settlements against German firms over enforced labour reached some five
billion dollars. 

The nine plaintiffs were "herded like cattle into trains and loaded into
cargo ships, where they were forced to live under horrific
conditions in the cargo holds for weeks," the lawsuit claims.

Some enslaved Chinese workers were beaten by Japanese supervisors or buried
alive in mines, according to the plaintiffs' attorneys. 

"The facts are still largely unrevealed of what the Japanese did," said
Barry Fisher, a colleague of Grosz.

"It's important to redress the claims of these individuals who were
exploited by private companies." 

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