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China court accepts suit against Japanese firms for WWII forced labor

Beijing's No. 1 Intermediate People's Court on Thursday accepted a lawsuit filed by 37 plaintiffs seeking compensation from two Japanese companies, Mitsubishi Materials and Nippon Coke and Engineering [corporate websites], for forced labor during World War II [LOC backgrounder]. The suit alleges that the plaintiffs and their relatives were taken [BBC report] to Japan where they were forced to work in coal mines during the War. According to the BBC, the top Japanese government spokesman Yoshihide Suga [official profile] has stated that there are no issues of liability for Japanese companies because of the 1972 Joint Communique of the Government of Japan and the Government of the People's Republic of China [text] establishing diplomatic ties between both countries.

The Chinese court's decision to hear this case is the most recent episode in a fight for compensation that has been going on for decades. In 2007 the Japanese Sapporo High Court upheld [JURIST report] a 2004 lower court decision rejecting a lawsuit brought by Chinese plaintiffs who say they were forced to work as slave laborers in mines and factories during World War II. The lawsuit, originally filed in 1999, sought nearly seven million dollars in compensation from the Chinese government and six companies. Also in 2007 a Japanese district court rejected [JURIST report] demands for compensation by 22 South Korean women, as well as the surviving relatives of other women, who were forced to work at a Japanese military hardware factory during World War II.

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