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Wednesday, 29 November, 2000, 11:11 GMT
Japan war slaves get $4.6m
Kazue Nakazawa, the widow of war slave Li Kejin, wipes away tears
The widows of those who died will also receive compensation
A Japanese construction firm has agreed to compensate nearly 1,000 Chinese labourers forced to work as slaves in a mine during World War Two.

While not admitting any responsibility, Kajima Corporation said it would give $4.6m to the Chinese Red Cross to set up a fund for survivors and the families of those who died.


The settlement will serve as a catalyst in Japan's moves to set up a legal framework to compensate wartime victims

Human rights lawyer Shigeru Tokoi
It is the first time a Japanese company has agreed to compensate forced Chinese labourers.

Thousands of Chinese and Koreans were transported to Japan before and during the war to work in factories and mines for little or no money as the country tried to keep its war machine going.

Of the 986 Chinese workers brought over to work at Kajima's mine in northern Japan in 1944, 418 had died by the end of 1945.

Some of those who died were tortured and killed following a rebellion at the site sparked by the appalling slave-like conditions.

Apology

"The Red Cross Society will set up a fund to compensate all 986 workers. For those who died, their families will receive money," a Kajima spokesman said.

"But this does not mean we have legally admitted our responsibility."

One of the survivors, Geng Zhun, 86, said he welcomed the establishment of the fund as a symbolic gesture.

But he said the money was only a tenth of what they had asked for and regretted the absence of a formal apology.

It is the first time a compensation package has been extended to cover all the original victims or their surviving relatives, and not just the plaintiffs involved in the lawsuit.

'Catalyst'

A number of similar lawsuits have been brought against the government and individual companies in recent years, but most cases have so far failed.

Human rights lawyer Shigeru Tokoi said the Kajima settlement could help others seeking compensation, including women forced into sexual slavery by the army.

"The settlement will serve as a catalyst in the nation's moves to set up a legal framework to compensate wartime victims," he added.

In August, nine Chinese sued two of Japan's biggest conglomerates - Mitsubishi and Mitsui - for forcing them to work in slave-like conditions during the war.

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See also:

29 Mar 98 | Despatches
Korean comfort women compensated
27 Apr 98 | Asia-Pacific
Wartime 'sex slaves' get compensation
22 Sep 99 | Asia-Pacific
Japan rules out war compensation
23 Aug 00 | Asia-Pacific
PoWs fight Japan firms in US courts
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