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Last Days of Recent Mustard Gas Victim Li Guizhen

On August 21, Li Guizhen, who suffered most seriously from leaking chemical weapons left in China by Japanese intruders during World War II, died.

Li was sent to hospital on August 4. He spent his last 18 days in the No. 203 Hospital of the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA). These 18 days were testament to the guilt of Japanese militarists.

A bolt from the blue

On August 4, builders of a real estate developer found five metal drums while working at Beijiang Residential Quarters in Qiqihar City, northeast China's Heilongjiang Province. One of the cylinders was broken and dark oil-like substances leaked out and infiltrated the soil.

Later that day, Li Guizhen, who had made a living by collecting and selling discarded materials in the city of Qiqihar, spent 200 yuan (US$ 24.1) buying these five cylinders and carted them to a discarded materials collection center in the vicinity. At the center, Li believed he would get more money if he divided the cylinders into the three different parts that made them up: inside, outside and cover. Then, he asked his friend Wang Cheng to help him. They removed lead and copper fastenings from the ends of the cylinders. During the removal, a dark oil-like substance gushed out.

According to Niu Haiying, boss of the discarded materials collection center, she smelt the strong smell of toxic mustard gas at that time. She spent 300 yuan (US$36.2) buying five cylinders after Li and Wang spilled the oil-like substances into a sump at the front of the center.

Li Guizhen, Wang Cheng and Niu Haiying had headaches and sore eyes that night. Later they reported the accident to the police.

August 6, experts and leaders of the Chinese People's Liberation Army arrived at Qiqihar. After their investigation, Chemical weapon experts later confirmed that the material was mustard gas, and the barrels were chemical weapons left by the Japanese army during World War II.

Emergency medical treatment

The local government attached great importance to the accident. The rescue office was set up immediately. No. 203 Hospital of the PLA was appointed as the only hospital to receive toxic patients. At the same time experts and doctors from the Beijing-based No. 307 Hospital of the PLA and the Second Medical University of the People's Liberation Army were also involved in the medical treatment.

On August 12, Li Guizhen was diagnosed with 95 percent burns to his skin, the eyes and respiratory system and a loss of homatosis. He was on the verge of death. Medical personnel in the hospital tried their utmost to rescue him, using the best medicine available.

According to Doctor Huang Yi, before August 18, the leukocyte count of Li Guizhen reached 2000 from 500 in eight days. On August 18, doctors found antibiotics could not take effect as Li's skin became wet because of the unconditional pathogen. The next day, Li had a fever and damaged his intestinal tract. That night experts from Shenyang arrived to deal with a relentless hemorrhage in his digestive tract. Another hemorrhage of digestive tract was found in the morning of August 21. At the same time hemonecrotic plaque was found in the blood supply area of his scalp. Then, his respiratory rate accelerated to 40 times per second with Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS). Li passed away at 8:55 pm that day. He succumbed to death as a result of failure of his multiple organs, despite efforts made to rescue his life. 

Hard days for the living

Li Guizhen was born of a common rural family in Zhumadian City, Henan Province. His family is the poorest of the village owing to his parents' poor health. Their main income is selling plants from their one acre of farmland. Though Li had moved to Qiqihar collecting and selling discarded materials for 10 years, his family was poor. Li Guosong, Li Guizhen's 60-year-old father, even couldn't afford the traffic fee to Qiqihar to see his son. They arrived at Qiqihar on August 19 with the help of media in Zhengzhou City.

One hour after Li's death, Li Guosong, Liu Aiping (Li Guizhen's wife) and Li Anmin (Li Guizhen's younger brother) were able to say goodbye to their loved one in the ward.

Li Guizhen has two children. His daughter is seven years old and studies in Henan Province. His three-year-old son was taken to Qiqihar this spring. Now, Liu Aiping is worrying for these two children. How can she bring up them without Li Guizhen?

Li Anmin said that they had donated the body of his brother to the hospital for medical research. They demand that the Japanese government compensate, including fees for supporting Li Guizhen's wife and parents from both sides, for rearing Li's children, for loss of income and transportation.

(China.org.cn by Wu Nanlan September 3, 2003)

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