December 10

1997: Chinese survivors & families of victims sue Japanese government

In 1997, one hundred and eighty Chinese survivors and families of the victims sued the Japanese government charging that its military forces had spread bubonic plague and other germ diseases in China. They demand full disclosure, an apology and compensation in the amount of 10 million yen per victim of biological weapons. The plaintiffs were assembled by Wang Xuan who used to live in rural village called Yiwu on China’s east coast. She vowed to shake Japan, China and the U.S. out of the great Pacific amnesia about Biological Warfare. She has taken the lead because: “If we wait for governments to settle this matter, we will die and the Truth will never come out.”

She was interviewed by PBS and BBC for their documentary films, including: “Unit 731: Nightmare in Manchuria,” “Rotten Foot Village,” and the most recent “Avoiding Armageddon.” She shows visitors the Tragedy Pavilion which lists 1,500 plague victims, and describes how Unit 731 dropped plague-infected fleas from aircraft and killed 20 villagers a day at one point in 1942.

Wang Xuan lost her uncle and one third of her village to the germs. She leads visitors through the gray-brick Buddhist temple where the Japanese performed autopsies to gauge the impact of their biological tests. “It’s like end of the world and there was a young woman, about 20 years old, was vivisected in this temple, behind me in the temple and the villagers still remember her scream: “I’m not dead yet, don’t cut me open.” (Joseph Kahn. Shouting the Pain From Japan’s Germ Attacks, The New York Times, 2002)

One of the witnesses in the case was Yoshio Shinozuka, whose job in Unit 731 was to scrub victims before they were vivisected. He declared his remorse and testified in excruciating detail how he had witnessed men being injected with the plague and then dissected while still alive.

“I still remember clearly the first live autopsy I participated in . . . my legs were shaking so badly I could hardly stand up. I knew the Chinese individual we dissected alive because I had taken his blood once before for testing. At the vivisection, I could not meet his eyes because of the hate he had in his glare at me.” The victim had been infected with the plague, and was totally black. Shinozuka was reluctant to use the brush on the man’s face.

“Watching me, the chief pathologist, with scalpel in hand, impatiently signaled me to hurry up I closed my eyes and forced myself to scrub the man’s face with the deck brush. The chief pathologist listened to the man’s heartbeat with his stethoscope and then the procedure started.”

“We called the victims ‘logs’,” he said, “We didn’t want to think of them as people. We didn’t want to admit that we were taking lives. So we convinced ourselves that what we were doing was like cutting down a tree. When you see someone in that state, you just can’t move. Your mind goes blank. The fear is overwhelming,” said Yoshio.

A Japanese soldier who confessed to torturing a man. He stated that after it was over, “I felt nothing. We did not think of them as people but as objects.”

Toshimi Mizobuchi a former Unit 731 member is remorseless. He is quoted stating,

They were logs to me. Logs were not considered to be human. They were either spies or conspirators.” As such, he said, “they were already dead. So now they die a second time. We just executed a death sentence.

Mizobuchi is now a real estate manager living outside the Japanese city of Kobe. He indicated that a reunion for the several hundred veterans of Unit 731 was held almost every year, and he had organized one of the reunions. Graphic descriptions of unspeakable inhumane Japanese experiments are at: Facts and Details by Jeffrey Hays; see also, Hudson. Doctors of Depravity, 2007.

In Aug. 2002, after 27 court hearings since 1997, including testimony by former Unit 731 Japanese soldiers who came forward as witnesses, a Japanese court demonstrated yet again, Japan’s inability to deal with its crimes across Asia. Three judges of the Tokyo District Court rejected a claim for an apology and compensation by 180 Chinese, either victims or the family of victims of Unit 731.

“If there was anything positive out of the decision for the Chinese, it was that for the first time, a Japanese court had acknowledged that Unit 731 and other units had engaged in “cruel and inhumane” biological warfare in China, costing many lives. But that was it. The judges claimed there was no legal basis for the plaintiffs’ claim, as all compensation issues were settled by a treaty with China in 1972.” (Shane Green. The Asian Auschwitz of Unit 731, The Age, Aug. 2002)

On July 19, 2005, the Tokyo Higher Court dismissed their suit again. And, on May 9, 2007, the Japanese Supreme Court rejected the demand for an apology and reparations. (Tsuchiya, The Imperial Japanese Experiments in China in Oxford Textbook of Clinical Research Ethics, 2008)


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