Japan refuses to pay wartime reparations to Chinese slave laborers

Needless to say, I’m not at all surprised. And I think it totally sucks.

A group of 45 elderly Chinese who were forced to work as slave labourers in Japan during World War II have lost their bid for compensation. A court in the Japanese prefecture of Fukuoka dismissed the men’s lawsuit, which sought a total of 1bn yen ($8.5m) in compensation….

According to the lawsuit, the plaintiffs were forcibly taken from China to Fukuoka prefecture in Japan between 1943 and 1944. They were made to work without pay at locations such as the Mitsui Miike mine and Mitsubishi Iizuka mine, according to Kyodo news agency.

About 40,000 Chinese people were sent to work in Japan in the latter years of the war. Japan has generally refused to pay damages to Chinese claimants, despite repeated accusations that it has not properly atoned for its wartime brutality.

Unlike asinine claims from some groups that the US government should compensate families today whose great-great-great-grandparents were once slaves, these Chinese plaintiffs were actual slaves themselves, forced to work in Japanese mines. If they were treated at all like Japan treated most of their prisoners, they were probably brutalized beyond description. They deserve compensation and a formal apology, to say the least, and Japan should feel shame at this decision.

The Discussion: 14 Comments

Shoudn’t it read, “Japan refuses …”? The Chinese Duck-Haters will have fun with that one, Freudian error, they will say. ๐Ÿ™‚

March 29, 2006 @ 3:16 am | Comment

Yes, yes, of course – JAPAN! Sorry about that. More a matter of hasty workplace blogging (shhhh!) than Freudian slips of the brain. Corrected.

March 29, 2006 @ 3:21 am | Comment

Allow me to play devil’s advocate here. You say claims that the US government should compensate families today are “asinine” because they deal with slaves that have been dead for many generations.

Then you turn around and say two generations after the fact, the grandsons of people who have absolutely no connection to the war profiteers other than being the same race should pay compensation through taxes, solely because they are of the same race as a group of war profiteers from over 60 years ago, who are mostly dead.

Sorry, but the two cases are equally asinine, being based on the deep pocket theory of justice which is destroying the US legal system.

March 29, 2006 @ 8:47 am | Comment

Boo, the big difference being – the slaves in this case aren’t dead. In fact, they’re the ones who brought forth the law suit.

So if they’re not owed reparations, what are they owed? A shrug, and a “hey, it wasn’t me. War sucks, get over it”, I guess? Because heaven forbid we place the burden on those innocent Japanese taxpayers.

I guess you were also one of those who were staunchly against reparations and written apologies for Holocaust survivors, and for survivors of Japanese internment camps.

P.S. What happened to this site? This registration thing is a right bitch.

March 29, 2006 @ 10:20 am | Comment

I think it would be nice for them to get compensation, but sadly the law doesn’t apply “nice” in any country. I have no complaint against the court if they were merely applying the law. I would like to be able to read their judgment, but I have no idea where to get it from (let alone have the Japanese to read it).

The only people that can grant compensation is the Japanese government. And I think, from a legal standpoint, the fact that the PRC and Japan made a formal agreement to waive compensation means that Chinese litigants will never have a legal case. Of course there is a moral issue, but again the courts are there to make legal judgments – not moral ones.

Trust me – you would not want courts merely applying equity all the time. There would be no certainty about anything then.

March 29, 2006 @ 12:39 pm | Comment

Nausicaa, you’re basically right, the slaves are alive. But the enslavers aren’t even being sued in this case, it’s just people with money and a very tenuous connection to the enslavers.

Sometimes there is no justice. But it’s generally a good thing if a court says people aren’t responsible for the actions of their ancestors.

March 29, 2006 @ 3:35 pm | Comment

Actually, the enslavers ARE being sued in this case. Well at least the business who ran the camps are. Mitsubishi was the largest profiteer of slave labour during WWII and also the operator and owner of where these men used to work.

March 29, 2006 @ 4:06 pm | Comment

To Raj – That agreement only waived China’s right as a state to being able to claim wartime compensation, not that of the individual (or individuals).

And courts only make legal judgments, sure, but implicit in their legal judgments are often ethical ones. Not to mention that laws and their interpretations thereof are not set in stone. (i.e. the 20-year expiration date thing.)

To me it’s not a matter of “niceness”, but “rightness”. I fully admit – not being versed in law and this being an emotional topic for the Chinese – that I’m seeing this more from a normative standpoint than a legal one. It would be nice to read the judgment. It’s certainly not the first time such a lawsuit has been struck down, I think.

(And that reminds me, I’m surprised nobody has made the “well, Japan already paid millions in ‘compensation’ through their ODA, shouldn’t it be enough” argument. For small mercies I am thankful.)

Boo – I got your stance the first time. “Wasn’t us, so suck it up” pretty much covered it. Sorry I can’t adopt the same unsympathetic stance that compelled you to condemn the lawsuit as being “asinine”. Nor do I care more about the innocence of the Mitsubishi of today over the suffering of its erstwhile victims as you do. Again, let me ask you – what do you think of Germany’s reparations to Holocaust survivors, and the U.S and Canada’s reparations to internment camp survivors? Were they “asinine” as well?

March 29, 2006 @ 4:17 pm | Comment

What Nausicaa said. Boo, the only reason I feel the reparations for slave ancestors is asinine is that the recipients are ancestors – they have done nothing to merit repatrations. They weren’t slaves. The plaintiffs in the Japan case were slaves and bear a direct burden, suffered direct misery, etc. Major difference, don’t you think?

March 29, 2006 @ 7:05 pm | Comment

Richard, Nausicaa, I do understand that difference, but this was all negotiated and settled in post-war treaties agreed to by China. You can’t keep re-opening cases when you think there’s an opportunity for more money, even if the original settlements aren’t to your liking.

And as for Nausicaa’s question about other reparations cases, yes, they’re asinine, mainly because in war, civilians die and lose limbs, lives are destroyed. Everyone suffers, and I don’t think you can cherry-pick special victim classes several decades later for special treatment.

March 29, 2006 @ 7:22 pm | Comment

As I read this entry, I thought to myself “this is an entry sympathetic to China, and that’s not going to go unchallenged.” And sure enough we already have boo and Raj jumping out to make sure no one is siding with China. Next time Richard should put up an entry titled “Chinese pandas popular in American zoos”, and wait to see how long until someone writes “I don’t see what’s so good about those Pandas, considering they are from China, they are kinda ugly actually. ”

March 30, 2006 @ 12:01 am | Comment


(I’m not saying this situation is just, or that I agree with it but…..)

This snippet is missing one key fact.

The reason why Japan is not now paying compensation is that Japanese law holds that these people have already been compensated under a bulk deal worked out decades ago between Washington (the occupying power) Beijing (the victim) and Tokyo (the agressor), and so they are not not elijable for MORE compensation.

A similar deal was made with Korea and a number of other coutries, and they were all made state to state rather than state to individual, with Japan and the named country comming to a fixed financial deal and the countries own government being charged with deciding how much each peron was to get, and it handing out the money (mostly provided through Japnaese war reperations, but also some of which was provided by the countries own government in the case of China).

In China’s case, Beijing should have compensated these people directly a very long time ago, based on its earlier agreements with Japan (for example the Joint Sino-Japanese cominuque).

FYI, the court did not deny their suffering or that they were deeply wronged.

The original package might have been floored but it was legal. A US court would have given the same verdict.

March 30, 2006 @ 6:27 am | Comment


I suppose a court could say that China had not signed away the rights of its citizens to seek redress. It would rather depend on the wording of the treaties and the intention of the parties. But a bigger problem (that I forgot about) is the inevitable statutory limitation that there will be on such claims. In that case the court’s hands are tied and there’s nothing they can do about it.

And as I said, courts should not simply do equity (that’s “rightness” as you put it). If they did there’d be complete chaos. The law needs to be followed. It might go against you today, but tomorrow it might defend you.

March 30, 2006 @ 1:00 pm | Comment

[…] world war II have lost their bid for … Mitsubishi was the largest profiteer of slave labour …http://www.pekingduck.org/2006/03/japan-refuses-to-pay-wartime-reparations-to-chinese-slave-laborers…The Corporate State and the Subversion of Democracy – The People&39s VoiceIt was not a perfect […]

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