City enhances protection of site linked to WWII human experiments

08:34, February 22, 2011      

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The undated photo shows the former site of Japan's Unit 731 in Harbin, capital city of northeast China's Heilongjiang Province. [Photo: CFP]

Harbin, capital city of northeast China's Heilongjiang Province, will issue regulations to enhance protection of the former site of Unit 731, where the Japanese army conducted biological warfare in China during the Second World War, Xinhua News Agency reported on Monday.

According to the draft regulations, which is set to be read by the Standing Committee of the municipal People's Congress, the area under protection will be expanded from the current Pingfang District to the Nangang District of the city. Old buildings in the site, occupied by any institution, will be gradually taken back by the local government.

In the future, if people find any relic linked to Unit 731, they must hand it in to government authorities, instead of claiming it as their own.

Furthermore, persons or organizations will be fined for smearing, demolishing or otherwise altering the ruins, said the report.

Unit 731 was a branch of the Japanese army that conducted lethal experiments on live foreign prisoners as part of efforts to develop weapons of mass destruction during its war of aggression against China (1937-1945). During that period, Japanese-controlled Harbin was the wartime base of Unit 731.

Though the Japanese government has never officially acknowledged the unit's existence, historians and participants have documented the notorious program.

Iwata Ryuzo, a Japanese monk shows his apology and sorrow for Chinese victims at the display hall of Japanese detachment Unit 731 in Harbin, capital of northeast China's Heilongjiang Province May 11, 2006. [Photo: Xinhua]

Previous reports quoted Jin Chengmin, an expert on Unit 731 from the Harbin Academy of Social Sciences, as saying that they have gotten the names of the more than 3,000 victims who died from biological experiments at Unit 731 in the Pingfang district of Harbin.

Besides the victims' names, the archives also include their ages, occupations, places of birth, education levels, and some even contain their photographs.

Historians believe that Unit 731 and related units injected war prisoners with typhus, cholera and other diseases to research germ warfare. The victims are believed to have been mostly Chinese, but also may have included foreign nationals.

In a related development, the Japanese government on Monday launched its first probe at a former medical school in Tokyo to search for human remains that experts link to Unit 731.

Yasushi Torii, head of a civil group investigating the case for decades, welcomed the dig as a sign that the government is open to the possibility of having to face its long-kept secrets.

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