Japanese lawyers fight for former war slaves

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 26 April, 2007, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 26 April, 2007, 12:00am

Two Japanese lawyers and an academic fighting for compensation for Chinese used as slave labourers during the second world war yesterday supported a motion, before the Legislative Council, advocating the rights of Chinese victims to demand compensation from Japan.

Their three-day visit, which began on Tuesday, comes ahead of a crucial ruling by Japan's Supreme Court on Friday. It is expected to overturn a Hiroshima High Court ruling that ordered Nishimatsu Construction to pay 27.5 million yen (HK$1.81 million) in compensation to some victims and their families.

The motion before Legco is being moved by Democratic Party legislator Albert Ho Chun-yan, and is expected to win support from legislators.

Lawyer Tohru Takahashi - who belongs to a support group for Chinese victims seeking compensation from Japan - said Friday's ruling was vitally important because it would set a precedent for future cases involving abduction and forced labour.

Saying he was pessimistic about the forthcoming ruling, Mr Takahashi added that if the Supreme Court overturned the lower court's ruling, then future cases of a similar nature would be doomed to failure.

Despite being Japanese, Mr Takahashi said he decided to work for the cause - which he has done for 12 years - because he could not turn a blind eye to the fact that many victims had been denied the right to claim compensation.

'Besides, it's also good for Japan, because only by solving the problems can she establish a good relationship with other countries,' he said.

The five Chinese plaintiffs claim they and their relatives were taken to Japan by the military in July 1944 and forced to work for Nishimatsu as slaves at a power plant construction site until the war ended a year later.