Japan urged to cash military notes for H.K. holders.
A group of Hong Kong people urged Japan on Monday to honor hundreds of millions of Japanese military notes held by more than 3,500 Hong Kong families for more than half a century. "This is a question of bearing the currency liability. The Japanese government must not pretend that it does not to know about that," the group seeking conversion of the Japanese military notes said in an appeal to Japanese Prime Minister Keizo Obuchi. The families are asking the Japanese government to cash the 540 million military yen notes issued during the Japanese occupation in World War II for 11 billion H.K. dollars (about 14.2 million U.S. dollars). Hong Kong people were forced to hand out their local and foreign currencies, gold, jewelry and other kinds of property for the military notes at a rate of 2 to 4 H.K. dollars for 1 military yen, which became the only legal tender occupation of the then British colony by the Japanese military. Whoever disobeyed the order was executed, the group said. A spokesman for the families, Ng Yat-hing, told a press conference the Japanese government did not offer an opportunity for them to convert the military notes back to Hong Kong dollars when the Japanese army surrendered and left in 1945. This was despite the Japanese government stating it had a huge reserve to back the military notes at the time of issuance and that each note bore the wording "face-value guaranteed" and carried no expiry date, Ng said. "This is about cashing (the military notes), not compensation," said Ng, who is also chairman of the Hong Kong Reparation Association. He accused Tokyo of trying to mislead the public by claiming they are asking for compensation. "That is unfair to us," Ng said. Many of the families are destitute and have to depend on government handouts for survival as they were forced to change all their money into military notes, Ng said. "I hope the Japanese government will not be so shameless as to try to drag on the case until these old people pass away," said Ip Kwok-him, a supporter of the group and a former Hong Kong legislator. The group also accused the Japanese government of using double standard in dealing with those from Hong Kong and Taiwan. Ng said the Japanese government has paid back claims made by many Taiwanese while ignoring the requests by Hong Kong citizens. In their appeal to the Japanese prime minister, which will be sent to the Japanese consulate in the territory Thursday, the affected families called on the Obuchi administration to be a credible government, be courageous and bear the burden of honoring the military currency. The Tokyo District Court, after hearing the families' case for six years, is expected to decide June 17 whether the Japanese government must cash the military notes. The families would appeal to higher courts if they lose their case this time, Ng said.