Beijing museum unveils ‘evidence’ of forced labour by Japan during second world war

Evidence Tokyo forced Chinese nationals to work for its war effort could add credence to decades old compensation claims, museum says, stirring regional tensions

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 18 September, 2013, 3:29pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 18 September, 2013, 3:57pm

A Beijing museum marked the anniversary of the 1931 Mukden Incident on Wednesday by revealing documents it said will help a compensation claim against Tokyo over forced labour during the second world war.

Japanese soldiers blew up a railway in Mukden (now Shenyang) in Manchuria 82 years ago as a pretext to taking control of the whole northeastern China region, and while the Asian giants are major trading partners, their political relationship remains soured by Japan’s brutal occupation before and during the war.

They are currently at loggerheads over disputed islands in the East China Sea controlled by Tokyo but claimed by Beijing.

“We are going to file lawsuits to the Japanese government to make them admit what they did, apologise and give compensation”
Deputy museum director, Li Zongyuan

The Museum of the War of Chinese People’s Resistance Against Japanese Aggression displayed more than 400 documents it said detailed how 40,000 Chinese nationals were forced to work in Japan during the war.

“We are going to file lawsuits to the Japanese government to make them admit what they did, apologise and give compensation to the relatives of victims,” deputy museum director Li Zongyuan said.

A video was shown containing images of what it called “shameless” Japanese politicians visiting the Yasukuni war shrine, which commemorates more than two million Japanese war dead, including 14 war criminals.

Beijing regularly accuses Tokyo of failing to atone for its imperialist past, while Japan says its neighbours use history as a diplomatic stick to beat it with.

Relatives of Chinese who were forced into labour have previously filed claims against Japanese corporations, and most of them have failed.

Japanese courts have previously said that China relinquished its rights to wartime compensation with the 1972 China-Japan joint agreement, which normalised relations between the two countries.