China court accepts wartime labour lawsuit against 2 Japanese firms

China court accepts wartime labour lawsuit against 2 Japanese firms
Zhang Shijie (2nd right), a former forced labourer who worked at a coal mine in Japan during World War Two, walks outside a court in Beijing February 26, 2014. A Chinese district court accepted a damages suit filed against two Japanese companies by a group of Chinese who claim to have been forced to work during World War II.

BEIJING-A Chinese district court on Tuesday formerly accepted a damages suit filed against two Japanese companies by a group of Chinese who claim to have been forced to work during World War II, according to a lawyer for the plaintiffs.

This is the first time that a lawsuit over forced labour involving Chinese was accepted by a Chinese court, a move expected to increase the possibility to lead to legal proceedings.

The two companies sued are Nippon Coke & Engineering Co., formerly Mitsui Mining Co., and Mitsubishi Materials Corp.

The 37 plaintiffs, including former labourers and bereaved family members of such workers, claimed they were forced to be brought to Japan from China and work under harsh conditions. They demanded the two firms pay damages of 1 million yuan (about S$204,000) per person and issue apologies in major newspapers in Japan and China.

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