Harbin govt to protect notorious germ warfare site

By Cheng Yingqi (China Daily)
Updated: 2011-02-24 08:00
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Harbin govt to protect notorious germ warfare site
Zhu Yufen, 70, visits the former site of Unit 731, where her father Zhu Yuntong and uncle Zhu Yunxiu were killed. This file photo was taken in Harbin, Heilongjiang province, on Sept 18, 2010. [Photo/Xinhua]

BEIJING - The Harbin city government is pushing for new regulations to protect the former site of Unit 731, a base for germ and biological experiments by the Japanese army during World War II.

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The city passed a draft on protection of the Unit 731 site at a recent executive meeting, and will submit it to the standing committee of the city's people's congress for review.

In the draft, the protected zone was expanded from the Pingfang district, in the southern suburbs of Harbin, to some downtown areas in the Nangang district. All the occupied heritage buildings will have to be vacated.

"For historical reasons, parts of the former sites of Unit 731 were occupied by institutions in the postwar period, for example by some State-owned plants. The Unit 731 headquarters was the only site protected well," said an official of the legislative affairs office of the city government, who refused to be named.

Earlier reports showed that even the original site of the office of Shiro Ishii, the lieutenant-general of Unit 731, was demolished due to lack of protection.

If passed by the legislative authorities, the regulation will permit local heritage protection agencies to impose a maximum fine of 50,000 yuan ($7,602) on anyone who damages, rebuilds or demolishes the heritage buildings.

The draft also covered sites scattering out from the headquarters, such as the Japanese consulate and the field test site in Chengzigou in the city's suburbs.

Recent name lists of victims showed that more than 3,000 Chinese were killed in live experiments in Unit 731 between 1939 and 1945.

The official with the legislative affairs office also said the new legislation "could help existing sites to meet the requirement of applying for World Cultural Heritage".

Authorities have been considering having the site included on the World Heritage List since 2005. In March 2010, the local government announced a plan to build a new park based in the zone of the Unit 731 ruins in Pingfang district "with an eye to apply for world heritage status".

There are precedents for war ruins being granted world heritage status. In 1979, the former Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz in Poland, where thousands of Jews were executed, was listed as a world heritage site. And in 1996, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) included the Hiroshima Peace Memorial in Japan as a reminder of the explosion of the first atomic bomb on Aug 6, 1945.

The lack of protective legislation and the occupation of the heritage buildings were both cited as factors disqualifying Unit 731 under the convention of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage adopted by UNESCO, media reports said.

Meanwhile, the Japanese government has made its first inspection of the Tokyo site of Unit 731.

On Monday, Japanese authorities began excavations at a former army medical school linked to Unit 731 to search for human remains, after a former nurse revealed that she had helped bury body parts on the site when US forces began occupying Tokyo at the end of the war.