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Researcher Claims War Crimes Worse Than Thought

According to as yet unpublished research by Li Jinwen, a historian from Shanxi Province, Japanese soldiers in WWII buried more than 155,000 Chinese laborers in an unused mine in Datong.


Chinese call these sites wanrenkeng, an expression for a pit in which tens of thousands of people are buried. The Japanese army also used many other cruel measures, including burning and burying alive and use of biological agents, to kill Chinese laborers during the war.


The laborers buried in the Datong wanrenkeng had mostly died from hunger, illness or injuries, and some who could no longer work for the Japanese army were buried alive.


Li is secretary-general of the Datong Coal Mine WWII History Research Institution, an organization independent of any state academies or associations. He said he has spoken to hundreds of survivors and victims' relatives, and sifted through eight documentary libraries in China's three northeastern provinces in order to complete his research.


A journalist from Shanxi Evening Newspaper interviewed Li on January 7 and was shown the photographic evidence and historical records that he has used to back his controversial claim that Datong's wanrenkeng was the result of premeditation and not an extemporary act of inhumanity.


Previously, scholars estimated the number of people buried in the wanrenkeng at Datong as being around 60,000. But Li, referring to records from the time and the scripts of interviews with perpetrators since, calculated that more than twice that many were interred there.


Many surviving miners and "comfort women," used as sex slaves, have made increasing efforts to be compensated in recent years for their suffering during the war.


Li has collected evidence of Japanese war crimes since 1963, and in his research he analyzes events through 21 perspectives, many involving evidence from the perpetrators themselves.


Li hopes his work will help survivors' future claims for compensation.


(China.org.cn by Wang Sining January 16, 2005)

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