Wounds of war

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - CHINA - By ZHAO XU

The big­gest mo­ment for me this year was when I came face to face with the wounds of war, open and fes­ter­ing, in Quzhou, a city in Zhe­jiang prov­ince rav­aged by war that has now be­come a pros­per­ous place.

How­ever, even af­ter more than seven decades the wounds left by Ja­pan’s oc­cu­pa­tion of China have yet to heal.

I had gone there to meet a group of “rot­ten-leg­gers” — vic­tims of Unit 731, the Ja­panese army’s no­to­ri­ous germwar­fare divi­sion dur­ing World War II.

These men, mostly in their 80s and 90s, have en­dured pain for vir­tu­ally their whole lives, to­tally un­aware that the cause of their prob­lems was an­thrax bac­te­ria spread by the Ja­panese army, which af­fected many parts of Zhe­jiang and neigh­bor­ing Jiangxi prov­ince in 1942.

The peo­ple un­af­fected by the at­tack were also un­aware of the cause: many just at­trib­uted the ooz­ing ul­cers on the men’s feet and legs to poor hy­giene, or even just bad luck. The stigma was like hav­ing salt rubbed into their wounds.

Things be­gan to change this year when a pub­lic do­na­tion plat­form was launched by Wang Xuan, a so­cial ac­tivist-cum-germwar­fare his­to­rian who has been cen­tral to ef­forts to gain jus­tice for vic­tims of Ja­panese war crimes.

Wang teamed up with doc­tors from a lo­cal hos­pi­tal, and so far, more than 50 peo­ple have un­der­gone treat­ment to ease their suffering.

Of course, many other vic­tims didn’t live long enough to find that sense of re­lief.

Zhe­jiang is one of China’s most af­flu­ent prov­inces, so many ques­tions re­main.

For ex­am­ple, how could it be that these men, who sur­vived the blood­i­est in­va­sion in the coun­try’s mod­ern his­tory, were left with­out care for so many decades?

Fur­ther­more, why has no se­ri­ous re­search, in­clud­ing the record­ing of oral his­tory, been con­ducted to ex­am­ine the link be­tween the dis­ease and the bac­te­ria at­tack?

The sur­vivors should not still be wait­ing for the an­swers to those ques­tions.

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