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Investigation Closely Watched

Concerned people in the provincial capital of North China's Hebei Province have been keeping a keen eye on the joint investigation being conducted by China and Japan of the 52 gas bombs the Japanese army left here during World War II, which has been going on under wraps since Saturday.

"I hope the Japanese Government will face squarely the compensation issue, which we first put forward in 1991 when the bombs were found in our school and injured at least 90 people," Huang Chengcai, former president of the Gaocheng Middle School in Shijiazhuang said to China Daily yesterday.

Huang said his school has asked for compensation of 319,000 yuan (US$38,500) for direct economic losses caused by the 52 bombs, but the Japanese Government has given no response over the past 12 years, after visiting the site twice, in 1992 and 2001.

The victims are now ready to bring accusations against the Japanese Government, he said.

Over 90 people who had contact with the bombs suffered from headache, nausea and itching. Over 300 students are also suspected to have been affected by the bombs, according to a report by the middle school to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The place where the school is located was a Japanese military weapons storage base during World War II, according to Huang, who noted that there are words such as "Made in Osaka" stamped on the bombs.

For 69-year-old Jia Xinchun and other residents in Bailuquan Village in Shijiazhuang, it is no doubt a shocking news that 52 gas bombs have been lying near them for 12 years without their being informed of the matter.

The 52 bombs were transferred to Luquan from Gaocheng because of safety concerns after they were confirmed to be gas bombs. They were stored at an army ammunition depot on Lianhua Mountain in Bailuquan Township, one kilometre away from the Bailuquan Village.

"Anyway, I approve of our government's handling of the bombs, and they must be very sure that the bombs will not hurt us," Jia said.

(China Daily September 11, 2003)

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