Mitsubishi settles with Chinese slave laborers


Mitsubishi Materials Corp, one of dozens of Japanese companies that used Chinese forced labor during World War II, reached a settlement covering thousands of victims on Wednesday that includes compensation and an apology.

The deal was signed in Beijing with three former workers representing the company's more than 3,000 Chinese victims of forced labor, Mitsubishi Materials said in a statement.

The victims were among about 40,000 Chinese brought to Japan in the early 1940s as forced laborers to make up for a domestic labor shortage. Many died due to violence and malnutrition amid harsh treatment by the Japanese.

Under the settlement, Mitsubishi Materials will pay 100,000 yuan ($15,000) to each of the Chinese victims and their families. The victims were forced to work at 10 coal mines operated by Mitsubishi Mining Corp, which was Mitsubishi Materials' name at that time.

"Forced labor was a severe crime during the Japanese invasion and colonial rule", Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said on Wednesday. "We hope Japan will face history, be responsible and settle the issue properly in a serious manner."

Mitsubishi Materials said it would try to locate all of the victims. If all come forward, the company's payments would total 370 million yuan.

At the signing ceremony in Beijing, the company "expressed its sincere apologies regarding its historical responsibility to the former laborers, and the apologies were accepted by the three former laborers", Mitsubishi's statement said.

However, Kang Jian, a Beijing lawyer for the alliance of groups representing forced laborers, described the agreement as "insincere and failing to recognize (the company's) abuse of enslaved Chinese", even though it used the word "apology".