Subject: [cwj 94] Japanese lawyer seeks justice for Chinese victims of WWII aggression
From: Corporate Watch in Japanese <>
Date: Tue, 05 Sep 2000 12:09:16 -0700
Seq: 94

For more info on forced labor and Japanese corporations, see

September 5, 2000

Japanese lawyer seeks justice for Chinese victims of WWII aggression

BEIJING, Sept 5 (AFP) - 

A Japanese lawyer is in China preparing the ground for court cases seeking
justice for victims of Japanese atrocities more than half a
century after the end of World War II.

Toshitaka Onodera, a Tokyo-based attorney, is one of the arrangers of a
seminar to be held in China next month to heighten awareness
of the plight of Chinese victims of Japanese imperialism and seek ways to
compensate them.

"We are taking up this case in gratitude over the courage of the Chinese
victims who chose to stand up," Onodera told reporters during
a briefing Tuesday in Beijing.

China was one of the main victims of Japanese aggression in the first half
of the 20th century, and when the confrontation erupted in
full-scale war between 1937 and 1945, at least 15 million Chinese, mostly
civilians, lost their lives.

The seminar, to be held in a museum at the Marco Polo Bridge near Beijing
where a minor military incident set off the
Chinese-Japanese war in 1937, will feature scholars speaking on subjects
ranging from the treatment of the war in Japanese textbooks
to ways to help war victims.

Arranged by Japanese and Chinese lawyers, it will also be a chance to
discuss ways to proceed with court cases against Japanese
corporations that used forced Chinese labor during World War II.

Four Chinese Americans and five Chinese nationals last month sued Japanese
conglomerates Mitsubishi and Mitsui in Los Angeles,
claiming the companies enslaved thousands of Chinese citizens during World
War II.

Onodera has yet to decide how many more cases will be pursued in the courts.

But more than 40,000 Chinese are believed to have been sent to Japanese
work camps during the war, with 5,782 documented cases
of workers forced into slavery by Mitsui and some 2,100 by Mitsubishi,
according to Chinese activists.

A California law passed in 1999 that allows cases arising out of World War
II slave labor issues to be filed until 2010, has been crucial
in bringing the lawsuit to the US, while courts in Japan and China are too
politically controlled to result in a favorable verdict.

Onodera said on Tuesday that he hoped there would be parallels between
Chinese forced-labor cases and cases against German
corporations accused of using slave labor during the Nazi era.

The American Jewish community was effective in lobbying the US
administration into action, and a similar role could be played by the
large number of US citizens of Asian descent, he said.

Onodera, an experienced human rights lawyers who has previously defended
ethnic Koreans' rights in Japan, said he is paying
expenses out of his own pocket to help Chinese victims of his country's
imperialist past.

He said it is a cause he has pursued since 1994, when he was first alerted
to China's anger over the unresolved issues of World War

That year, Japan's Justice Minister Shigeto Nagano said the 1937 Nanjing
Massacre -- in which China says 300,000 civilians were
slaughtered -- was a hoax, triggering angry demonstrations in Beijing.

The justice minister was later sacked for his remarks, but much more needs
to be done, according to Onodera.

By addressing the issues of more than 50 years ago, Japan will also be
helping itself, he said.

"Without any clear idea what was done by Japan, and who were the victims
and the assailants, Japan will never come to terms with its
history," he said.

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