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Barry Fisher, lawyer for the claimants
"New evidence"
 real 28k

Wednesday, 23 August, 2000, 06:29 GMT 07:29 UK
PoWs fight Japan firms in US courts
Hou Shulin, a former PoW
Hou Shulin cries during a press conference launching the action
A group of Chinese Americans and Chinese nationals have launched a test case in the US seeking compensation from two Japanese companies for alleged human rights abuses before and during World War II.

The claim was filed at a court in Los Angeles against the Mitsubishi and Mitsui groups.

It accuses them of kidnapping thousands of Chinese and herding them like cattle onto trains and cargo vessels on their way to becoming slave labourers in territories under Japanese control.

Four of the plaintiffs now live in California, while the other five are residents of Beijing.

Lawyers say other Chinese and Korean claimants may come forward.

Compensation

One lawyer, Barry Fisher, has been involved in successful efforts in Europe to gain billions of dollars in compensation from German and Swiss companies which used slave labour.

"This is a suit on behalf of Chinese people victimised during the war," Mr Fisher said.

"There were millions of them and hundreds of thousands are still surviving."

Mr Fisher said researchers had identified 135 Japanese companies which used slave labour and that the law suit could eventually name a number of them.

The legal action does not specify an amount of compensation, but a New York judge recently approved a deal for Swiss banks to pay 1.25bn to the relatives of Nazi Holocaust victims.

More than 500,000 people claimed they were owed money which had been deposited by them or their dead relatives, but was then hoarded by the banks after the war ended.

Last year, California passed a law allowing PoWs who were exploited as slave labour during World War II to file claims until 2010.

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