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Archives Give up Secrets of Japan's Unit 731

Recently uncovered archives are shedding new light on the chilling details of human experiments carried out more than 60 years ago by Japan's infamous Unit 731.

At a news conference yesterday, researchers in Harbin, capital of northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, formally presented Japanese files recording details of 1,463 people secretly transported to Unit 731 in the Pingfang District of suburban Harbin shortly before and during the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1937-45).

The files include full descriptions of 318 cases, including at least 25 victims from the former Soviet Union, Mongolia and Korea.

The files record victims' names, ages, occupations, place of birth and some even contain victims' photographs along with lists of their supposed crimes.

Some are described as "incorrigible", "die-hard anti-Japanese," and "of no value or use."

"This is direct evidence proving Unit 731 conducted biological experiments on live human beings," Jin Chengmin, an expert on Unit 731 from the Harbin Academy of Social Sciences, told China Daily.

Jin said he and his late colleague Han Xiao had spent 20 years going through archives all over the country to collect scattered wartime files left by the Japanese forces.

The files were marked "Special Deportation," indicating the victims were condemned to be sent to Unit 731.

According to Jin, the "special deportation" started on January 26, 1936, when Ishii Shiro, lieutenant-general of Unit 731, felt he needed more human guinea pigs to conduct experiments on.

"These 'special deportations' ensured a supply of human guinea pigs and are a key part of the crimes," Jin said, adding that "by conservative estimates" at least 5,000 people were tortured to death by Unit 731 and its predecessor from 1933 to 1945.

Opening up the archives and identifying victims will allow their offspring and relatives know more about what happened to their ancestors, Jin said.

"Most of the families have no idea what their relatives went through or that they died in that hell-like place," he said.

Unit 731 was notorious for experimenting on live humans in order to develop biological weapons, such as bubonic plague, typhoid, anthrax and cholera.

Outside the camp, an estimated more than 200,000 Chinese were killed by biological weapons produced in the laboratories of Unit 731.

As well as Chinese victims, Russians, Mongolians, Koreans and some prisoners of war from the United States and Europe died in the camp. Historians said Unit 731 would have had the capability to wipe out all human beings on earth if it had kept up full production of its weapons for just one year.

(China Daily August 3, 2005)

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