by Xinhua writers Lyu Qiuping and Liu Baosen
JINAN, April 15 (Xinhua) -- About 700 people who were forced to work in Japan during World War II filed a lawsuit in east China's Shandong Province on Tuesday, demanding both an apology and compensation from two China-based Japanese companies.
Four representatives on behalf of the former laborers signed a letter, authorizing a legal aid team to file the lawsuit at Shandong Higher People's Court.
Mitsubishi Corporation (Qingdao) Ltd. and Yantai Mitsubishi Cement Co., Ltd., which are accused of forcing laborers from Shandong to Japan to work during the war, are being sued 1 million yuan (160,700 U.S. dollars) per victim in compensation. The laborers also want a written apology published in major newspapers in China, said Fu Qiang, executive head of the legal aid team and head of Shandong Pengfei Law Office.
Fu said the two Mitsubishi companies are not directly connected but affiliated to the original perpetrator, Mitsubishi Materials Corp in Japan.
"The two companies are foreign-owned enterprises in China, and subject to Chinese law," said Fu.
This is the second time the laborers have brought a compliant to court. In September 2010, six laborers, on behalf of 1,000 Chinese from Shandong, brought a lawsuit against the two companies. The court refused to accept the case.
Around 40,000 Chinese, one-fourth of whom were from Shandong, were forced to work in Japan during the war. Of these workers, 7,000 died in Japan. Thirty-five Japanese companies are believed to have been involved in forced labor from 1937 to 1945, when Japan invaded China.
Quoting government figures, Wang Wanying, one of the four representatives and son of a victim, said out of 1,500 laborers brought to Japan from Shandong's Yuncheng County, only 130 people returned home alive.
"My father was lucky enough to survive," said 55-year-old Wang. "We will carry on to seek justice," he said.
Japanese courts have rejected all compensation claims in 15 lawsuits filed by forced Chinese laborers since the 1990s, saying that a 1972 bilateral agreement nullified Chinese rights to seek war-related compensation.
However, former Chinese Foreign Minister Qian Qichen, said in March 1995 that although China had discarded national reparations, the government did not abandon its people's rights to demand compensation.
On March 26, nine former laborers filed a lawsuit against Coke Industry Co., Ltd. of Japan, Mitsubishi Materials Corporation and the Japanese government at Tangshan City Intermediate People's Court. They are requesting compensation. A decision to accept the case has not been made yet.
On March 18, the Beijing Intermediate People's Court accepted a lawsuit against Coke Industry Co., Ltd. of Japan and Mitsubishi Materials Corporation over the matter, the first such case to be accepted in China.
Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Japan should seriously address issues of forced labor, take a responsible attitude and seriously treat and properly handle the issues left over from history.