Chinese coal miners win apology, compensation from Japan’s Mitsubishi Materials for slavery

China | 1 Jun 2016 5:18 pm

Mitsubishi Materials Corp., one of dozens of Japanese companies that used Chinese forced labor during World War II, reached a settlement today covering thousands of victims that includes compensation and an apology.

The deal was signed in Beijing with three former workers representing the company's more than 3,000 Chinese victims of forced labor, Mitsubishi Materials said in a statement. The victims were among about 40,000 Chinese brought to Japan in the early 1940s as forced labor to make up for a domestic worker shortage. Many died due to violence and malnutrition amid harsh treatment by the Japanese.

(Pictured, Ma Wenyi, center, carrying a photo of his father, protests in Beijing today).

Mitsubishi Materials will pay 100,000 yuan (US$15,000) to each of the Chinese victims and their families. The victims were forced to work at 10 coal mines operated by Mitsubishi Mining Corp., what Mitsubishi Materials was known as at the time.

Mitsubishi Materials said it would try to locate all of the victims. The company's payments would total 370 million yuan (US$56 million) if all of them come forward.

At the signing ceremony in Beijing, the company “expressed its sincere apologies regarding its historical responsibility to the former laborers and the apologies were accepted by the three former laborers,'' the company's statement said.

Mitsubishi Materials also said it would construct memorials at the sites where the company's mines were located and organize memorial ceremonies.

The settlement comes two years after several groups representing the victims and their families filed a compensation lawsuit against Mitsubishi Materials. The sides had since negotiated settlements, though one of the groups, representing 37 plaintiffs, has rejected the settlement, according to Japan's Kyodo News agency.

Japan's government has long insisted that all wartime compensation issues were settled under the postwar peace treaties, and that China waived its right to pursue compensation under the 1972 treaty with Japan that established diplomatic relations between Beijing and Tokyo. Lawsuits filed in Japan by Chinese and Korean victims of Japanese wartime aggression, including former forced laborers and sex slaves, had previously been rejected.

Japan's Foreign Ministry acknowledged the country's wartime use of Chinese forced laborers after wartime documents were found in the early 1990s.

The settlement is the first ever that Mitsubishi Materials has reached with former forced laborers. At least two other Japanese construction companies _ Kajima Corp. and Nishimatsu Co. _ have taken similar steps to compensate smaller groups of victims.

Last year, Mitsubishi Materials apologized for its treatment of former U.S. prisoners of war. –AP

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