A group of Chinese people who were forced to labor for imperial Japan during World War II have filed a lawsuit in a Chinese court. Korean victims have won similar cases in Korea, so the plaintiffs stand a good chance of prevailing.
The 37 Chinese victims and relatives filed a suit on Wednesday against 35 Japanese companies including Mitsubishi Heavy Industries. The victims are seeking 1 million yuan each in compensation and apologies published in China's People's Daily and Japan's Asahi Shimbun.
Around 38,900 Chinese are believed to have been forced into labor during World War II, and an estimated 6,800 of them died in harsh conditions in mines and factories to keep the Japanese war machine running.
Tokyo says Beijing relinquished its right to claim for compensation when China and Japan normalized diplomatic relations in 1972. Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary Yoshihide Suga said Wednesday that "individual rights do not exist" due to the treaties signed as part of normalized diplomatic relations.
Tokyo has made the same argument against Korean victims, but over the past few years courts here have refused to accept that bilateral treaties cannot negate individual rights to claim for compensation.
China's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said forced labor was a "grave crime committed during Japan's military occupation that remains unresolved" and urged Tokyo to deal with the matter "sincerely and appropriately."