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Japanese denial of compensation saddens hearts of Chinese forced laborer's family
www.chinaview.cn 2005-06-25 23:43:53

    JINAN, June 25 (Xinhuanet) -- When 84-year-old Zhao Yulan packed luggage two weeks ago for her son heading for Tokyo for a lawsuit that two generations of her family had fought, she thought they would win.

    Zhao even had planned to visit her husband's grave on the day of verdict, which was held Thursday, to tell the wartime forced laborer seized by the Japanese army that the injustice he suffered was finally redressed.

    The family, however, lost the suit.

    Their demand for a state compensation of 20 million Japanese yen (162,074 US dollars) from the Japanese government was denied by the high court Thursday, saying that China and Japan had not reached agreement on state compensation back in the wartime and the 20-year litigation term had expired when the forced laborer himself filed the suit in 1996.

    Zhao's husband Liu Lianren was among the 50,000-strong Chinese forced laborers seized to Japan during World War II. The man died of stomach cancer in 2000.

    Zhao was frustrated when she learnt the verdict in an old house in Caopo village of Gaomi City, her hometown in eastern Shandong province. "He suffered a lot, and the family suffered a lot. Why can't Japanese just face up the bloody truth!"

    Like many peasant women in China, Zhao never went to school and could not understand the law. But she said it is a simple truth oflife that every one knows that one should apologize for the harm he did to others.

    "I can't understand why the Japanese just did it the otherwise!" the old woman said.

    From 1931 to 1945, Japanese army forced tens of thousands of Chinese to work in Japan's coalmines, ammunition factories, and railway construction sites to fuel the country's invasion in Asia.Numerous laborers died in harsh working and living conditions.

    Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao on Thursday called the forced labor "one of serious crimes" committed by the Japanese militarists during the wartime years.

    Liu Lianren, shipped to Japan at age 31, was forced to work at a mine on Japan's northernmost island of Hokkaido in 1944. But he escaped in April 1945 and went hiding in remote mountains on Hokkaido to avoid Japanese soldiers.

    For the next 13 years, Liu lived as a "cave man" in the mountains with a saw, a cleaver, a bag and flints until he was found by a local hunter in 1958.

    When he arrived home, he suffered from insomnia, arthritis, spur, round-worm disease, and almost lost the ability to talk.

    "I thought he was dead," Zhao said. When Liu was taken away they were just two years into the marriage. Liu's parents were often in tears and prayed for their son's return every day, but unfortunately they did not live up to that day.

    After Liu was gone, the whole family relied on her, said Zhao. She looked after the parents, funded his brothers' education, and brought up their own baby. "Our son hadn't met his dad until he was 14."

    Zhao said 13 years of cave life had made Liu an entirely different person. After going through years of untold sufferings and hardships, he hesitate to talk about the past, even to his wife and his son. "But what hurt me most was he curled up wheneverhe slept. His back and legs were unable to stretch straight for the rest of his life," she said in tears.

    It was the Japanese that brought all these sufferings to her family, Zhao said, and she could not believe the verdict would come down like this.

    "Where is the justice? It is unfair," she said.

    After Liu' return in 1958, the family began to be engaged in a series of public activities, seeking support to restore justice tothe victimized Chinese wartime laborers in Japan.

    On the walls of Liu's living room hanged a large map of Japan, dotted with numbers of Chinese laborers in each province.

    During World War II, altogether 50,685 Chinese did forced labor in 135 factories, firms, or coalmines in Japan, as the figures on the map show, and more than 6,800 died there due to ruthless exploitation by Japanese owners.

    Liu's son Liu Huanxin said it was urgent to demand compensation for these laborers as many of them had passed away while others were mostly in their 80's.

    Most of these labor cases were funded by charity groups with free assistance from a number of Chinese and Japanese lawyers.

    Liu Huanxin took over the case after his father's death. In the first verdict in 2001, the Tokyo District Court ruled that the government should provide the plaintiff 20 million yen in compensation, saying Japan had failed to "fulfill its responsibility to rescue Liu while he was on the run."

    That ruling was the first decision ever made by a Japanese court that ordered the state to pay compensation to a Chinese victim of Japan's forced wartime labor. Only 11 days later the Justice Ministry of Japan appealed.

    According to experts, the fate of wartime forced laborers' suits in Japan was uncertain. A small number of them were ruled favorable for the plaintiff but have been rejected by Japanese courts owing to the 20-year expiration clause.

    After Thursday's court overruled the compensation, Liu's son and grandson said they will continue to appeal until the Japanese government apologizes and compensates.

    "I will continue to appeal, not for the money but for what we should deserve," said the 35-year-old grandson Liu Li.

    "If my father can't win the case in his life, I will definitely carry it on," he said.

    Yao Wenli, an expert with the Institute of Japanese Studies of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, said the ruling once again hurts the feelings of all people whose nations suffered Japanese aggression.

    If not properly handled, the case will cast shadow on and loom over the "already lukewarm" Sino-Japanese relations, and does harm to it, Yao said. Enditem

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