War reparations activists on the mainland and in Hong Kong said yesterday the settlement reached by the Japanese construction company Kajima and Chinese forced labourers would encourage them to follow suit. The agreement was seen to set a precedent in Japan. Former labourers have filed about 60 compensation lawsuits against Japanese companies, but few have been successful. Kajima yesterday agreed to pay 500 million yen (HK$35 million) to nearly 1,000 Chinese who were brutalised as prison labourers. The 'consolation money' concerned lawsuits filed over the alleged forced labour at the Hanaoka mine during World War II. The Hanaoka mine, in the northern prefecture of Akita, was owned by Kajima-gumi, the forerunner of the present-day Kajima Corp. In 1944, 986 Chinese were transferred there. Conditions were harsh, and former labourers say they were often beaten. On the night of June 30, 1945, they revolted under the leadership of a work foreman named Geng Zhun. The revolt was brutally suppressed by police, military police and local militias. Many of the labourers were subsequently tortured and killed. The Hanaoka case is one of the most high-profile, and the compensation is the largest given so far. It is also the first time a compensation package has been offered not only to victims but also the family members of those who died. Feng Wanjun, a war reparation activist based in Heilongjiang, said the settlement would help similar suits by Chinese war victims. Ng Yat-hing, chairman of Reparation Association Hong Kong, said the Kajima case was a good start. But he added: 'The Japanese Government was partly responsible for the case and should compensate and apologise to the victims.' He accused Kajima of shirking its responsibility by paying just 'consolation money' to the victims. Mr Ng said about 50,000 Hong Kong residents were sent by three Japanese companies to Hainan island during the war as forced labourers to work on piers and quarries. About a dozen were still alive and planning to sue the Japanese firms in a court in California early next year. Mr Ng also said about 2,000 Hong Kong women had been shipped to Hainan as 'nurses' but were in fact forced to become 'comfort women' or sex slaves. He said it was ridiculous that there were no laws in Japan that stipulated the Government must compensate war victims.