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Fall of POW camp wall leads to outcry
By Wu Yong (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-01-18 02:01

Restruction of parts of a World War II-era concentration camp , built by Japanese invaders to house allied prisoners of war, has raised an outcry from angered local residents and historical researchers in Shenyang, capital of Northeast China's Liaoning Province.

A bulldozer works to remove the wall of a World War II-era concentration camp in Shenyang, on Sunday. [newsphoto]
About 1,500 allied forces' prisoners, most of them Americans, were held in the Shenyang Camp in Liaoning Province in Northeast China from November 1942 to August 1945, according to historical records.

They show that more than 40 per cent of the prisoners died there during a three year period, a report from Xinhua said.

The POW camp (also known as Mukden)-- which historians say has great significance as a site revealing Japanese war crime evidence -- is located in the Dadong District of Shenyang, with most of it retaining its original appearance.

But a 100-metre-long southern retaining wall at the camp was demolished last weekend.

"We were just implementing the city government's plans to remove illegal construction," said Li Qing, an official from the local district government in Dadong.

Li said that there were many illegal structures outside the wall and the government planned to turned the area into a new green belt.

"All we were doing is to better protect the site," said Li. He said the local Dadong district planned to develop a new tourist project, which would include the camp.

He was backed by Zhang Ying, vice chief of the Shenyang Cultural Department.

Zhang said he and Dadong District has jointly worked out a plan to protect the site and improve the living conditions of local residents.

"The construction at the camp is scattered in a large area. So what we can do is to protect several respective ones such as the dorms for POWs and the hospital, but not the entire area," said Zhang.

Moreover, Li Qing said the wall pulled down was not the original one that was built by Japanese invaders. He said a factory built the wall in the 1950s.

But 68-year-old Deng Yongquan, who lives beside the camp, said the wall was the original one that held the prisoners inside. Deng is a retired worker at a factory in Shenyang that used a camp building as a dormitory in the past, and lived inside the dorm.

"A cultural relic is not a set of walls or one building. It is a complete compound, which includes every buildings inside. I strongly disagree with their idea of protecting the representative ones," said Zhang Yibo, chairman of the September 18 War Research Centre, an academic body doing research on the Japanese invasion of China.

It was right to demolish the illegal construction outside the area but not the wall itself, said Zhang.

"This is the proof of what Japan did historically. We should set up a museum here to record the past and remind people in the world the price of the war," he said.

Dozens of the former prisoners and their relatives have come here to the site in the past and have held memorial ceremonies, and the encampment has profound memories for them.

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