Beijing — Li Yunde (far left) and other Chinese plaintiffs talk to the press at a hotel here Wednesday.

LOS ANGELES (Kyodo) A group of nine people filed suit Tuesday against Mitsui and Mitsubishi group companies operating in the United States, demanding compensation on behalf of all Chinese who were forced to work in Japanese factories and mines before and during World War II.

The class-action suit, filed with the Los Angeles County Superior Court by five Chinese nationals and four Chinese-Americans, is seeking damages for unpaid labor performed by Chinese for the two major Japanese corporate groups between 1929 and 1945, their lawyers said.

“California is the appropriate venue for this case because the defendants and their assets are here. Also, four members of the class-action suit are California residents,” said lawyer Barry Fisher. “The plaintiffs want just compensation for slave labor.”

Three of the Chinese plaintiffs are Liu Zhanyi, 75, Li Yunde, 72, and Hou Shulin, all from Hebei Province.

Zhang Guiyin, the fourth Chinese plaintiff, is suing on behalf of her father, Zhang Beilin, who allegedly died at the hands of the Japanese.

It was the first time Chinese nationals residing in China have sued Japanese companies in connection with alleged forced labor in Japan, the lawyers said.

Former U.S. soldiers, Chinese-Americans and South Koreans have lodged more than 30 suits against Japanese firms demanding compensation for wartime labor.

The lawsuit cites a law passed by California in 1999 that allows cases arising out of World War II slave labor to be filed until 2010.

Some of the lawyers in the case participated in suits against Swiss banks as well as German and Austrian companies arising out of the use of slave labor by Nazi Germany during World War II, Fisher said.

Some of these cases have been settled for between $6 billion and $7 billion, he said.

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