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Chinese to sue Japanese firms over wartime forced labor

Kyodo

A group of Chinese experts and citizens will on Wednesday file a lawsuit against Japanese companies to seek compensation for victims of wartime forced labor, a lawyer involved in the plan said Tuesday.

The lawsuit, if accepted by the Beijing No. 1 Intermediate People’s Court, could further complicate any effort by the two Asian countries to repair their relations already fraught with tensions over territorial and historical issues.

The group, consisting of 37 people, includes victims, lawyers and scholars from the government-backed Chinese Academy of Social Sciences and Peking University.

They are seeking compensation, apologies and promises to build monuments in Japan for Chinese victims of wartime forced labor and their families from Mitsubishi Materials Corp. and one other company.

Japan’s courts have turned down Chinese plaintiffs’ wartime compensation claims.

Its Supreme Court ruled in 2007 that Chinese individuals have no right to demand war reparations from Japan, noting that Beijing renounced its claims for them under the 1972 joint statement at the time Sino-Japanese diplomatic ties were normalized.

Until now, Chinese authorities have largely prevented individuals from filing compensation lawsuits against Japan out of concern they could hurt bilateral relations and hinder China’s economic development.

If the Beijing court accepts the lawsuit, it virtually means that the Chinese government under President Xi Jinping has given its approval for citizens to take war-related legal action.

If accepted, it is very likely that the case will be backed by the court and relations of the two countries since 1972 are expected to be influenced in a profound way.