Japanese company apologises to war slaves


Relatives of Chinese slave workers stand outside a court in Beijing in 2014

Mitsubishi Materials has apologised to Chinese citizens used as forced labour during World War Two.

The company, one of dozens in Japan to have used Chinese people as slave workers during the war, has reached a settlement with victim groups that includes the promise of compensation and memorials.

The deal – the first involving forced labourers from China – was marked with a signing ceremony in a Beijing hotel.

The Japanese company expressed its “sincere apologies regarding its historical responsibility to the former labourers” and promised to “continue to seek a comprehensive and permanent solution with all of its former labourers and their families”.

Mitsubishi Materials will pay 100,000 yuan (£10,500) to each of the more than 3,000 Chinese victims who were made to work at 10 coal mines operated by Mitsubishi Mining Corp, as the company was then known.

Mitsubishi Materials has promised to try to find all of the victims or their families so they can be given their share of the money and they have undertaken to build memorials at the sites where the company’s mines were located.

One of the victims, Yan Yucheng, 87, told reporters he welcomed the settlement.

He said: “World War II ended 70 years ago. Our forced labour case today has finally come to a resolution.

“We have won this case. This is a big victory that merits a celebration.”

Others were not so happy.

One victims’ group voiced doubts about the sincerity of Mitsubishi Materials’ apology, saying that Japanese firms were making an effort to ease widespread anti-Japan sentiment among Chinese, many of whom feel the country has yet to show true remorse for its invasion and wartime atrocities.

Kang Jian, a lawyer representing 60 former workers who filed a case against Mitsubishi Materials in a Chinese court, said: “The company did it not for reconciliation, but to try to relieve the pressure on the Japanese government.”

Responding to the settlement, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said: “China urges Japan to adopt a responsible attitude and properly handle the relevant issue of history.”

The settlement comes two years after victims’ groups filed for compensation, with a deal eventually reached by all involved except one group representing 37 plaintiffs.

About 40,000 Chinese people were brought to Japan in the 1940s and used to make up for the shortage of workers in the country.

Many of them were badly treated and died of starvation or as the result of violence.

The Japanese government had previously said that all wartime compensation issues had been settled under postwar peace treaties and that lawsuits filed in Japan by Chinese and Korean victims, including forced labourers and sex slaves, had been rejected.

In July, Mitsubishi Materials became the first Japanese company to apologise for using American prisoners of war for forced labour.

In November, a South Korean court ordered Japan’s Nippon Steel and Sumimoto Metal Corp to compensate seven Koreans forced to work at one of its predecessor companies during the war.

That group was awarded a total of 700m Korean won (£404,000). SkyNews.com

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