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Graves of Chinese World War II germ warfare victims found

May 20, 1997

BEIJING (AP) _ The graves of Chinese killed in Japanese germ warfare experiments during World War II have been unearthed in southern Guangdong province, state media reported today.

The report came as a group of Japanese rightists, many of whom dispute tales of Japanese wartime atrocities, were arriving in Beijing for meetings with Chinese scholars, officials and students.

The suffering caused by the Japanese army during the war, as well as disputes over islands claimed by both countries, have long cast a shadow over ties between Tokyo and Beijing.

Extraordinarily heavy rains helped to uncover waist-high lidded pottery jars each filled with the bones of two or three people presumed to have died in the experiments carried out by a team of Japanese scientists known as Unit 8604, the newspaper Beijing Youth Daily reported.

The graves, found Friday, were the first to have been unearthed in a three-year search for the victims of the 8604, according to the Guangzhou-based newspaper Yangcheng Evening News.

The reports did not say how many jars had been found.

In 1994, a Chinese historian reported he had uncovered evidence that as many as 20,000 World War II refugees had died from germ warfare experiments by the Japanese army in Guangzhou.

Chinese and Hong Kong war refugees, long thought to have died of starvation and illness, were killed by various infectious diseases planted by the Japanese researchers, according to Sha Dongxin, a historian with the Guangdong Academy of Social Sciences.

Sha’s claim, reported in the state-run press, was the first finding of such atrocities in Guangdong province, although it is widely accepted that the Japanese army conducted such experiments through its Unit 731 in northeast China during the war.

Details on the activities of the Guangzhou laboratory are sketchy. The 1994 reports quoted local residents who said large numbers of refugees died each day, their bodies dumped in pits or chemical vats and destroyed.

At least 3,000 Chinese, Russians, Koreans and Mongolians were killed in top-secret experiments by Unit 731 in the northeast, involving injections of various germs such as anthrax, typhus and dysentery, as well as human vivisection and shrapnel-induced gangrene.

Similar grotesque experiments have been reported from other regions of China.

Japan has never denied the existence of a germ warfare unit or use of gas weapons by its wartime military. But it has said there was insufficient evidence to determine the extent of its involvement with chemical and biological weapons because all documents were destroyed at the end of the war.

Japan conquered northeastern China’s Manchurian region in 1931 and established a puppet state. It later occupied much of the rest of the country, remaining until Tokyo’s World War II defeat in August 1945.

The past deeds of the Japanese Imperial Army, including the 1937 Nanjing Massacre, in which the Chinese say 300,000 civilians were slain by marauding Japanese troops, will be topics of discussion for the Japanese ultra-nationalist groups visiting Beijing this week.

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