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Court rejects H.K. residents' claims on military yen.

TOKYO, June 17 Kyodo The Tokyo District Court on Thursday turned down a demand by a group of Hong Kong residents that the Japanese government redeem yen notes issued by the military during Japan's World War II occupation of the territory. The court acknowledged that Hong Kong residents were forced to exchange Hong Kong dollars for the military yen and that they suffered a loss when the currency became worthless following Japan's defeat. But Presiding Judge Seiichiro Nishioka said the Japanese government is not obliged to compensate for the loss since the Finance Ministry ended the convertibility of the currency into ordinary yen in September 1945. The action, taken on the instructions of the Allies, turned the some 1.9 billion military yen then in circulation in Hong Kong into worthless paper. The ruling also supported the claim by the Japanese government that a 1907 international treaty does not allow individuals to seek compensation from a state for wartime sufferings. The 17 plaintiffs, led by Ng Yat-hing, 63, demanded the Japanese government pay nearly 770 million yen, a sum that combines the value their holdings of military yen would have had based on current prices, and 10 million yen in consolation money for each plaintiff. The plaintiffs claimed their military yen, with a total face value of about 3 million yen, should be multiplied by about 200 to reach what would have been the current value. The Japanese military occupied the former British colony between December 1941 and September 1945. In 1943, the military started to force the islanders to exchange their H.K. dollars for the military notes at a rate of 2 to 4 H.K. dollars for 1 military yen. Whoever disobeyed the order was executed, the plaintiffs said. Japanese supporters of the plaintiffs say the Japanese military issued the special notes because it needed H.K. dollars to buy munitions in Macao. Ng told a press conference after the ruling he and his offspring will "continue urging Japan, which robbed us of our property, to offer compensation, even if it may take 1,000 years or 10,000 years." Ng inherited his military yen from his parents. He said the ruling "clearly shows that Japan has no plan to exchange the military yen (into cash)." "If things remain unchanged, the Japanese government's fraudulent act of reneging on its debts will remain in history." Japanese courts rejected a similar claim filed by a Taiwanese woman on her military yen in the early 1980s.
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Publication:Asian Economic News
Date:Jun 21, 1999
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