Slave labourer's payout axed

PUBLISHED : Friday, 24 June, 2005, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 24 June, 2005, 12:00am

Mainland activists are urging Japan to re-evaluate its stance on wartime compensation after the Tokyo High Court yesterday overturned a landmark ruling four years ago awarding a payout to the family of a deceased Chinese forced labourer.

Along with other touchy issues, Japan's continued dodging of its moral responsibility to pay war reparations to more than 39,000 Chinese slave workers held in Japan during the second world war is testing the limits of already-sour relations between the two countries, according to Japan watchers based in Beijing and Shanghai.

The Tokyo High Court yesterday scrapped the July 2001 order by a lower court for the Japanese government to pay 20 million yen ($1.4 million) to the family of Liu Lianren , who spent 13 years hiding in the mountains after escaping from a Japanese mine in 1945.

The higher court acknowledged it was illegal for Japan to have neglected Liu after the war, but said the plaintiff could not seek redress since 'the right to demand compensation expired as the 20-year statute of limitations had run out'.

Yesterday's ruling came after the Japanese government appealed to overturn the 2001 verdict.

'Let's get this straight - Chinese individuals have a right to seek reparations for what they suffered in Japan even if it happened about 50 years ago,' said Wang Xuan , a Shanghai-based lawyer and leading mainland activist.

The two governments should sit down and open a dialogue over the war-compensation issue, she said.

Tokyo's position is that wartime compensation issues with China were settled by the joint communique between the two countries in 1972. The central government renounced claims for reparations, but whether individual Chinese victims could pursue claims was not addressed in the document.

Additional reporting by Agence France-Presse