HONGKONG citizens forced to buy millions of dollars worth of military currency during World War II will sue the Japanese Government for compensation next month. Hongkong lawyer Albert Ho Chun-yan said a writ would be filed on August 13 at the Tokyo District Court, signalling a long legal battle. ''The first court hearing is expected to start this winter and it could take as long as 10 years. There's a similar case involving Taiwanese citizens which is still going on 10 years after it was first deliberated,'' Mr Ho said. The convenor of a support and action group said there was a good chance the victims would win because the political climate in Japan had changed. ''The Japanese Government is looking for some form of settlement over war compensation because it wants to become a member of the United Nations Security Council. ''If Japan doesn't sort out the problem, then I believe there will be resistance to it becoming a Security Council member,'' he said. Mr Ho said, as part of the preparation for four Japanese lawyers to bring the cases to court, the Hongkong group had chosen 20 out of 2,700 victim families. The Japanese lawyers, led by Kenichi Takagi, will then select five or six cases for next month's writ. ''These people have testified in front of video cameras in Hongkong and we have taken written statements from them. ''They were either victims or witnesses of war crimes or those who were forced to change Hongkong dollars into military currency during Japanese occupation. ''The video testimony is very useful because at least two of the victims are unable to fly to Japan to give evidence because they are either too old or considered to be unfit to travel. ''If necessary, Japanese lawyers can come to Hongkong to cross-examine them, possibly using Hongkong courtrooms,'' Mr Ho said. Hongkong and Japanese lawyers involved are not charging consultation fees for the selected citizens. Mr Ho's group will launch a fund-raising campaign for travel expenses and other overheads in connection with the legal battle. ''The citizens have said they will donate 40 per cent of the compensation to charity if the cases are won,'' he said. The 2,700 members of the Hongkong Reparation Association are demanding more than $1.5 billion for the exchange of 510 million yen forced on Hongkong residents during the occupation. The wartime money became worthless after Japan's defeat. Mr Takagi said there were 20 similar court cases being heard in Japan and they came mainly from South Korea and the Philippines. He hoped support from other Asian countries could lead to changes in the 1951 San Francisco Peace Treaty, in which the Allies did not require the Japanese to exchange the money. Professor Hideo Kobayashi, of Komazawa University in Tokyo, said the question of reparation came to public attention in Japan only two years ago. ''A lot of the Japanese citizens did not know the question of military currency had existed until they saw on the television about a world forum in 1991. ''They didn't know much about what the Japanese Imperial Army had done in China and Southeast Asia except the country was defeated by the United States during World War II,'' he said.