Chemical Weapons Test Site Fuels Rage over Japanese Wartime Atrocities ; China - Scientists Find Evidence of Vast Plant That Used POWs as Human Guinea Pigs in Gas and Biological Warfare

By Eimer, David | The Independent on Sunday (London, England), July 1, 2005 | Go to article overview
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Chemical Weapons Test Site Fuels Rage over Japanese Wartime Atrocities ; China - Scientists Find Evidence of Vast Plant That Used POWs as Human Guinea Pigs in Gas and Biological Warfare


Eimer, David, The Independent on Sunday (London, England)


Chinese scientists have found the site of a huge Second World War Japanese army chemical weapons testing facility. Located in the remote grasslands of Inner Mongolia, the site was used by the Japanese to test poison gas bombs from 1940 onwards. Chinese prisoners of war, captured during the 1937-45 Sino-Japanese War, are believed to have been used as human guinea pigs during the tests.

As many as 250,000 Chinese died between 1937 and 1945 as a result of being exposed to such weapons. More than 2,000 people have subsequently been killed and injured by chemical weapons that were hastily abandoned by the Japanese army at the end of the Second World War. Only two weeks ago, three people in the southern province of Guangdong were hospitalised after inhaling gas that had leaked from discarded artillery shells. Japanese authorities estimate there are 700,000 such weapons scattered around China; the Chinese put the number at two million.

The plant, which is about 20 miles south-east of Hulun Buir city in the far north of Inner Mongolia, was found by a team led by Jin Chengmin from Harbin Municipal Academy of Social Sciences. He said: 'It covers an area of 40 square miles. It may be the largest and best-preserved gas experiment site in the world. We've found more than a thousand pits that were used for experiments, as well as trenches and shelters for people and vehicles.'

News of the discovery emerged earlier this week, just three days before the 68th anniversary of the start of the Sino-Japanese War, and has further fuelled China's lingering anger over what it sees as Japan's refusal to apologise properly for its army's actions in the war. A sign of how important an issue the war still is to the Chinese came this Thursday when a Beijing museum's exhibition of photos of Japanese army atrocities was opened by Li Changchun, a member of the Standing Committee of the Communist Party's Politburo and one of China's most senior politicians.

Mr Jin's team found the site after consulting the memoirs of a Japanese soldier who had served there and by interviewing elderly residents of the area. One local, a man named Abide who worked at the town's railway station in 1940, recalled seeing special trains carrying Japanese soldiers and prisoners of war arriving at the station and hearing that experiments were being conducted on human beings.

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