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Gas victims demand Japan compensation
( 2003-08-11 06:26) (China Daily)

Four officials from Japan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs visited the city of Qiqihar in Northeast China's Heilongjiang Province at the weekend to investigate an accident in which at least 36 people were injured by chemical weapons left by Japanese troops during their invasion to China (1937-45).

Chemical defense soldiers in full exposure suits cleans the construction site where mustard gas canisters were found in Qiqihaer, northeast China's Heilongjiang Province. [newsphoto.com.cn]
The team, headed by Kawakami Fumihiro, a foreign ministry official in charge of China affairs, visited the sites where the chemical weapons were found and the location where they are presently stored. They brought flowers to the 34 victims who are staying at the People's Liberation Army Hospital No 203 in Qiqihar for medical treatment. Another two victims were not hospitalized because their injuries were not serious.

A Xinhua reports said Sunday that Chinese victims and their families have demanded compensation.

Details about the demands are not available, but Chinese foreign ministry officials are reported to have been negotiating with the Japanese side in the past two days.

On Friday, the Chinese Government urged Japan to seriously deal with the accident. Fu Ying, director of the Department of Asian Affairs of China's Foreign Ministry, lodged solemn representations with the Japanese Embassy in Beijing.

The chemical weapons, stored in five metal barrels, were discovered last Monday morning at a construction site. One of the barrels was carelessly broken by workers at the site, causing an oil-like substance to leak out and penetrate into the soil.

Unaware of the nature of the material, two workers later cut the barrels into pieces and sold them to a recycling facility in a residential community.

Things were made worse when the polluted soil from the building site was moved to other locations as part of the construction work.

After technical analysis, experts later confirmed that the five barrels had been left by the Japanese army and contained mustard gas.

Of the 34 victims in Hospital No 203, two are close to death, with blood problems and difficulty breathing, said Min Xinge, director of the hospital's Medical Affairs Office.

Another eight patients were in serious conditions by Sunday night. The other patients were under observation and it was possible that their condition could worsen, Min said.

A typical characteristic of poisoning caused by mustard gas is pruritus (severe itching) and burning, especially on a man's genitalia, the official said.

Last Monday, Li Huizhen, a 31-year-old rural worker among these victims who comes from Central China's Henan Province, had 30 per cent of his skin affected by burning on August 5 but this had spread to 95 per cent by Sunday, Min noted.

Dozens of top experts on chemical weapons, burns treatment and relevant diseases from various army hospitals, China's Ministry of National Defence and Ministry of Foreign Affairs have been invited to Qiqihar to provide the victims with emergency medical treatment and to deal with the aftermath of the accident.

The hospital has already spent more than 350,000 yuan (US$42,000) of its own money to treat the victims. It has used the best medicine it can get, Min Xinge told China Daily yesterday.

The Qiqihar city government organized a police contingent to prevent the pollution from spreading. Eleven sites polluted by the gas have been strictly controlled and disinfected.

Everyday life and work in Qiqihar is continuing as normal and the urban areas are quite calm, Xinhua News Agency reported yesterday.

In another development, a bomb with nerve gas was found Sunday in Changsha, capital city of Central China's Hunan Province. It belonged to the air force of the Japanese invaders and had been buried for nearly 60 years. But nobody has been reported poisoned by gas from the bomb.

Chinese Premier meets Japanese guests

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao stressed Sunday that China and Japan should always adhere to the principles of the Sino-Japanese peace and friendship treaty.

Chinese Primier Wen Jiabao meets Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda in Beijing, August 10, 2003. [Reuters]

The premier made the remark during a meeting with visiting Japanese Chief Cabinet Secretary Yasuo Fukuda and his entourage.

Yasuo Fukuda came to Beijing to attend activities marking the 25th anniversary of the Sino-Japanese treaty of peace and friendship.

Speaking highly of the contribution made by late Japanese Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda to the signing of the treaty and to the bilateral relations, Wen said China and Japan should carry forward the belief and foresight of the older generation of statesmen from both countries and always adhere to the principles and spirit of the treaty so as to promote the Sino-Japanese relations in the new century.

Wen said that it is in the fundamental interests of both sides to promote political trust, economic cooperation and friendship between the peoples of China and Japan, two neighboring countries separated by a strip of water.

The two sides should draw lessons from history and gear to the future, view the bilateral relations in a strategic perspective, properly handle relevant issues, particularly the historical issues and the Taiwan issue, expand cooperation for mutual benefit, and promote the healthy development of bilateral ties, Wen said.

Fukuda conveyed the greetings of Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi to Premier Wen.

Fukuda said it was significant to visit China on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the Sino-Japanese treaty of peace and friendship.

He noted that the two sides reviewed the treaty and its significance to the bilateral relations. Both sides reaffirmed their political will to push forward the bilateral ties in the new century by treating historical issues seriously and adhering to the principles of the peace and friendship treaty, he said.

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