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Japan groups aid chemical victims
(China Daily by Sun Shangwu)
Updated: 2004-02-24 00:48

Seven Japanese friendship groups said in Beijing Monday they would set up a special fund to assist Chinese victims of chemical weapons abandoned by the Japanese Imperial Army during World War II.

The fund, with initial capital of 1 million Japanese yen (US$9,300), is expected to receive more donations from Japanese in political and business circles, according to Muraoka Kyuhei, president of the Japan-China Friendship Association.

Muraoka, together with leaders of other Japanese friendship groups, made the decision after visiting victims of Japan's abandoned chemical weapons over the weekend in Qiqihar, in Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province.

On August 4 of last year, a toxic gas leak killed one person and injured 43 others after barrels of mustard gas abandoned by Japanese invading troops were dug up at a construction site in Qiqihar.

After hearing 11 victims' description of their injuries as well as their present health conditions, Muraoka said all members felt the situation was much worse than they had expected.

"The war has been over for nearly 60 years, the problem (of abandoned chemical weapons) has not been solved, and the (Qiqihar) case is the vivid evidence,'' Muraoka said Monday through an interpreter.

He urged the Japanese Government to speed up the process of solving the problem and to let more Japanese know the truth.

He said the delegation felt "very pained'' to know that some Chinese young people also suffered serious injuries in the incident.

The youngest victim is only eight.

Bu Ping, an expert on abandoned Japanese chemical weapons from the Heilongjiang Provincial Academy of Social Sciences, told China Daily Monday that the establishment of the fund is of big political significance.

Economically, it is hard to use money to compensate the victims' losses, but politically, the fund could generate influence in Japanese society,Bu said.

Muraoka said the group will tell the truth to more Japanese, especially young people who know little about history.

Many Japanese textbooks gloss over historical accounts of what happened in China during the Japanese invasion.

"The absence of historical knowledge among young people is a very sad thing and better awareness of history is important for developing bilateral friendships,'' he added.

The Japanese Government last year agreed to give 300 million yen (US$2.56 million) to 44 victims in Qiqihar and payment was made by the end of last year.However, a group of victims decided to file a lawsuit against the Japanese Government seeking an official apology and compensation.

"What matters is not how much money we will get in compensation, but how the Japanese Government will face its history,"the group's lawyer Su Xiangxiang said.

The problem is that Japan has never admitted its mistakes in the war and the purpose of the payment is ambiguous, according to Bu.

It is estimated that there are about 2 million chemical weapons abandoned by the Japanese army invaders still lying in China.

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