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Mustard gas victims take case to Japan
By Li Fangchao (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-07-26 06:13

HARBIN: Nine victims of chemical weapons left in China by Japanese invading forces after World War II are leading a petition delegation of Japanese and Chinese lawyers that will head to Tokyo this Friday.

The nine victims were all injured in August 2003, in Qiqihar, Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, when five barrels of mustard gas were dug up at a construction site.

The gas leak killed one and injured 43 others, one of the worst accidents involving chemical weapons left by Japanese invading troops in China after WWII.

During their trip to Tokyo the victims will try to present a detailed report of the tragedy to Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi, Luo Lijuan, one of the Chinese lawyers in the delegation, said.

"Our aim is to urge the Japanese Government to give better treatment to these victims and step up its efforts to dispose of chemical weapons Japanese troops left in China," she told China Daily.

"What we want to see is a change in their attitude towards this event."

Luo said that they intend to submit the report on August 4, the second anniversary of the accident.

According to Luo, the detailed medical cases of all 43 victims who are still alive constitute a key part of the report.

"Although most of the victims had left hospital two months after the event, all of them are still suffering symptoms and many have to occasionally return to hospital for treatment," she said.

Medical experts say exposure to mustard gas can result in life-long suffering.

"The victims' skin burned after contacting with the gas," she said.

"A slight touch of the healed wound may trigger bleeding and may further infect other parts of the body."

Among the nine victims who will go to Japan this time, Wang Cheng, 25, a worker in a refuse recycling station, is said to be the most severely injured of all the victims.

Large areas of Wang's skin on his lower limbs are necrotic and he is unable to have children.

"At 1.7-metre-tall, he weighs only about 36 kilograms," Luo said.

The toes of another victim, Ding Shuwen, 27, a construction worker, have become webbed because of exposure to the gas.

Three minor victims, Feng Jiayuan, Gao Ming and Chen Ziwei, are also joining the delegation.

They were exposed to the gas while playing barefooted on the playground of their school.

"Their feet become red and swollen once on rainy or hot days," Luo said.

The report is the result of a two-year joint-effort by lawyers from China and Japan.

The Chinese lawyers collected evidence while the Japanese lawyers wrote the report and dealt with legal procedures.

Altogether 43 individual files carefully record victims' injuries and the treatment they have received.

"The result is heart-aching, we know the injuries caused by the gas will never heal," Luo said.

Luo said although they did not raise any specific amount of compensation in the report, they hoped all victims would be compensated.

"If this fails, we will launch a lawsuit," she added.

(China Daily 07/26/2005 page2)

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