Railway project bidders must reveal WWII histories under California bill
LOS ANGELES — The California State Assembly approved a bill (AB619) Aug. 25 requiring bidders for an estimated 4 trillion yen high-speed railway project to release information on their transportation of prisoners-of-war during World War II.
As the California State Senate earlier approved the bill, it is set to become law if the governor signs it.
The issue of compensation for wartime atrocities has cast a shadow over the competition between Japanese, French and other companies for the railway construction contract.
As a precondition for participating in the tender for the high-speed railway construction project, the bill stipulates that rail companies that transported POWs during World War II must disclose information on whether they still keep records of that activity and whether they paid compensation after the war.
Even though the bill contains no provision for punishment, such as barring companies that did transport POWs from participating in the tender, it is aimed at urging companies involved to fulfill their responsibility for providing information on their acts and pay compensation to their victims.
The bill was introduced to the state legislature with French national railways’ transportation of Jews to Nazi concentration camps in mind. However, the state senate also deliberated on the Japanese state-run railway system’s transportation of POWs and about 670,000 Koreans.
East Japan Railway Co. (JR East), a member of a corporate alliance that intends to participate in the tender in a bid to sell its Shinkansen bullet train system, could be subject to the law.
The state-owned railway system, which was run by the now defunct Railway Ministry, was reorganized into the Japanese National Railways, a public corporation, after the war, and split into six regional passenger companies including JR East and a nationwide freight company in 1987.
Japanese, French, German, Spanish, Chinese and South Korean companies as well as those from other countries are expected to fiercely compete for the project, which is reportedly worth about $45 billion U.S. or some 4 trillion yen.
(Mainichi Japan) August 27, 2010