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More Japanese chemical weapons found
(China Daily)
Updated: 2004-05-31 09:15

Munitions loaded with toxic gas found last week in a village in Qiqihar of Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province have been proved on a preliminary basis to have been discarded by invading Japanese troops during the War of Resistance Against Japanese Invasion (1937-45).

Villagers living near the area where the munition shells were discovered have moved away, while further excavation and examination are ongoing.

A total of 52 shells were unearthed last Sunday by Dong Liyan, a villager in Ang'angxi District of Qiqihar, when he started to lay the foundation for a new building next to his old dwelling.

The shells, varying in size and shape, were between 20 and 40-centimetres-long with diameters measuring between 8 and 10 centimetres.

Ang'angxi District used to be a military airport and residence for the Japanese troops, according to local residents.

Dong, 54, had been living for 30 years on the property where the shells were excavated. Receiving Dong's report, the local residents' committee told him to move out before yesterday. Dong's house has been blocked off since last Sunday.

The committee then raised an alert to local authorities including departments of public security and production security as well as local military authorities. Staff from related national departments and technicians visited the area to investigate last Sunday.

Preliminary results of the investigation have indicated that these shells were left behind by Japanese troops, according to local officials.

This case, together with the discovery of a mustard gas cylinder in Qiqihar on Monday, triggered a new wave of outrage over the discarding of chemical weapons in China by Japanese troops.

Last August 43 people were poisoned by abandoned Japanese mustard gas, which left one person dead.

Indignant Chinese citizens have urged the Japanese Government to take a proper attitude toward history and shoulder the responsibility of clearing up all the chemical weapons left over by invading troops.

"Japan's invasion of China in 1937-45 was a calamity for the whole Chinese people," said Qiqihar resident Jiao Bo. "Now, these chemical weapons they left behind are threatening our children's lives. The Japanese Government must do something about this."

"We do not know how many of these weapons are still undiscovered in our city," said Qiqihar shopkeeper Yuan Shuli. "We do not know how many people they will hurt in the future."

During the war, Qiqihar was the base camp of the Japanese army's "Unit 516." Unlike the notorious "Unit 731" which was engaged in germ warfare research, "Unit 516" specialized in biochemical weapons.

Bu Ping, vice-president of the Heilongjiang Academy of Social Sciences and a researcher of chemical weapons left behind by Japanese troops in China, estimated that Japanese invaders abandoned more than 2 million chemical weapons in different forms in a dozen Chinese cities and provinces at the end of war.

"These weapons are threatening the safety and homes of Chinese people," he said.

According to statistics, some 2,000 Chinese citizens have so far been affected by discarded chemical weapons since the war ended.

In Qiqihar alone, eight incidents involving Japanese chemical weapons have taken place since the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949, said Su Xiangxiang, a lawyer who was engaged in a compensation suit for the Chinese victims of last August's mustard gas incident.

Chat rooms on major Chinese websites are once again filled with emotional discussions on the issue, with Xinhuanet.com and Sina.com, two major Internet portals, recording more than 70 pages of messages demanding the Japanese Government face up to its historic responsibilities.

"The cylinder is solid evidence that proves the Japanese cruelty in China," said Liu Chunfeng, a Qiqihar University student. "Although the Japanese side refuses to look squarely at history, their chemical weapons have injured innocent Chinese people time and again. They should apologize to us!"

Cao Zhibo, who specializes in the study of "Unit 516," said the Japanese troops buried or threw chemicals weapons into rivers and lakes in China to cover up their crimes after their defeat.

"Today, the Japanese Government remains tight-lipped as to how many chemical weapons are buried in China and where they are," said Cao.

Though it is difficult to collect materials about the amounts and locations of the chemical weapons left behind, this can never be used as an excuse that the Japanese side could do nothing about it, Bu said. The Japanese Government should collect related information through inquiring with veterans and by other means, and provide the findings to China in a timely manner.

Chinese citizens could fall victim at any time to abandoned chemical weapons as China is accelerating its urbanization drive.

"We strongly call on the Japanese Government to shoulder its responsibility and co-operate with the Chinese side in stepping up the process of handling the discarded chemical weapons, so as to avoid such tragedies happening again," Bu said.

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