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Japanese germ-war atrocities undeniable

A large number of files discovered by the Jilin provincial archives administration recently reveal the grim world of helplessness and suffering that Japanese troops unleashed on China through their large-scale human experimentation, which was carried out by the notorious Unit 731.

The 81-volume written and audio-video materials were prepared by Japanese troops from 1936 to May 1945 and left behind in China when they hastily withdrew from the country after the end of World War II, Xinhua News Agency has said.

Unit 731, based in Pingfang district of Harbin in Heilongjiang province, was led by the infamous Japanese microbiologist Shiro Ishii. It was a covert biological warfare research and development unit that undertook human experimentation during Japanese occupation of parts of China. The notorious Japanese unit was the most active in China, where it carried out biological, bacterial and chemical weapons' tests on civilians and prisoners of war, which included Russians and Koreans.

The newly discovered materials record such activities by Unit 731 in Changchun, Jilin province, and other places, and the transfer of experiment targets to the unit and some activities of Shiro Ishii, who was one of the leaders of Japan's bacterial warfare forces. These archival materials also record the "Special Transfer" of 372 people to Unit 731 for experimentation.

According to Gao Wei, in charge of a Jilin provincial archives administration research team on Japan's biological and bacterial warfare, the "Special Transfer" meant the transfer of some "valueless" prisoners of war to Unit 731 for biological and bacterial research on humans, mostly through vivisection. On Jan 1, 1938, the Japanese army stationed in Northeast China laid down a set of standards for the "Special Transfer" targets, that is, mainly people engaged in "espionage", and the national liberation and the communist movements.

"Through studies on Japan's 18 military legions distributed across occupied Chinese territories and the timing of the establishment of hundreds of departments related to bacterial experiments, we have found that Japanese troops set up a bacterial warfare unit in every Chinese territory they occupied," Gao says. This testifies that the establishment of Unit 731 and other forces for bacterial warfare was one of Japan's most important strategies for aggressive expansion in China.

According to records, 2.37 million Chinese people became the victims of 161 bacterial attacks that Unit 731 carried out in more than 20 provinces of China. The State Archives Administration data show that about 270,000 Chinese people died in barbaric bacterial attacks launched by the unit and other Japanese forces.

The newly discovered materials also record the mandate issued by the Japanese troops to Chinese people, ordering them to catch mice for experiments. Some 20,000 mousetraps were distributed among the people, who were ordered to catch 450,000 mice. This large-scale mice-catching campaign was aimed at conducting research on how to spread plague. Aside from written materials, some audio recordings, which contain the accounts of the relatives of some members of Unit 731 and other forces, reveal Japan's heinous bacterial war crimes, says Yin Huai, director of the Jilin provincial archives administration.

In addition to the newly discovered materials in Jilin, other materials found abroad also show the scale of Japanese atrocities, especially those committed by Unit 731, in China.

Unit 731 also launched bacterial attacks against the former Soviet Union. According to Yang Yanjun, a researcher at Harbin Institute of Social Sciences, Unit 731 waged at least four such attacks against the Soviet Union in the 1939 Nomonhan War. Yang based his conclusion on a detailed study of the oral confessions of some Japanese prisoners of war who were involved in the attacks and other historical documents.

But even such solid facts do not deter Japanese right-wing forces from still denying that Unit 731 was nothing more than a sanitation team that operated behind frontline Japanese troops, and virtually nothing is mentioned about it in the country's history textbooks. In fact, many of the scientists involved in Unit 731 went on to have successful careers in politics, academics, business and medicine.

Shockingly, despite pledging of peace and vowing to have friendly ties with countries that suffered Japanese atrocities, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe seems to have a special liking for "731". In May 2013, Abe, smiling and giving the thumbs-up sign, posed for a photograph standing in the cockpit of a T-4 training jet, emblazoned with the number 731, at a military base in Japan's Miyagi prefecture.

This provocative act infuriated Chinese, Russians, Koreans and other victims of Japanese brutality before and during WWII and has left them wondering how far Abe and a Japan under his leadership will go to deny history.

The author is a senior writer with China Daily.

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