The discovery of a mustard gas cylinder in Qiqihar City on Monday triggered a new wave of denouncement of invading Japanese troops' discarding chemical weapons in China after being defeated in World War II.
Indignant Chinese have raised their voice to urge the Japanese government to take a correct attitude toward history and shoulder the responsibility to clear up all the chemical weapons left over by the Japanese invaders.
"Japan's invasion of China in 1937-1945 was a calamity to numerous Chinese. Now, the chemical weapons they left over here are threatening our children's lives. The Japanese government must do something for this," said Jiao Bo, a resident of Qiqihar in the northeastern province of Heilongjiang.
An iron cylinder with a pungent smell was dug out at a construction site in Qiqihar Monday morning, and fortunately the eight workers who unearthed it didn't show obvious symptoms of being poisoned. But the incident reminded the people of a case in the city last August when discarded Japanese mustard gas left one local dead and 43 others injured.
"We don't know how many such weapons are still not discovered in our city. We don't know how many people they will hurt in the future," said Yuan Shuli, who runs an ice-cream shop in Qiqihar.
During World War II, Qiqihar was the base camp of "Unit 516" the Japanese army. Unlike the notorious "Unit 731" which was engaged in germ warfare research, "Unit 526" was specialized in biochemical weapons.
Bu Ping, vice-president of the Heilongjiang Academy of Social Sciences and a researcher of chemical weapons left over by the Japanese troops in China, estimated that the Japanese invaders had left over 2 million chemical weapons in a dozen of Chinese cities and provinces at the end of World War II.
"These weapons are threatening the Chinese people's safety and living environment," he said.
According to statistics, some 2,000 Chinese have so far become victims of the discarded chemical weapons after the war was over.
In Qiqihar alone, eight incidents involving Chinese becoming victims of Japanese chemical weapons have taken place since the People's Republic of China was founded in 1949, said Su Xiangxiang, a lawyer who was engaged in a compensation suit for the Chinese victims of last August's mustard gas incident.
Chat rooms on major Chinese web sites are once again filled with emotional discussions on the issue, with Xinhuanet.com and Sina.com, two major Internet portals, recording more than 70 pages of messages demanding the Japanese government to face up to history.
"The cylinder is a solid evidence that proves Japanese invasion of China," said Liu Chunfeng, a Qiqihar University student. "Although the Japanese side refuses to look squarely at history, their chemical weapons have injured innocent Chinese time and again. They should apologize to us!"
Cao Zhibo, who is specialized in the study of "Unit 516", said the Japanese troops, to cover up their crimes after the defeat, buried or threw the chemicals weapons into rivers and lakes in China.
"Today, the Japanese government still keeps tight-lipped as to how many chemical weapons are buried in China and where they are," said Cao.
Though it is difficult to collect materials about the amount and location of the chemical weapons left over by the Japanese troops, but this can never be used as an excuse that the Japan side could do nothing about it, said Bu. The Japanese government should collect related information through inquiring veterans and other ways, and provide the findings to China in time.
Chinese citizens may fall victims at any time to the chemical weapons buried by the Japanese troops as Chinese is accelerating its urbanization drive. "We strongly call on the Japanese government to shoulder the responsibility and cooperate with the Chinese side in stepping up the process of handling the discarded chemical weapons, so to avoid such tragedies to happen again," said Bu Ping.
(Xinhua News Agency May 30, 2004)