Sun, Jun 23, 2013 - Page 12 News List

Stories untold

An exhibition on view at Chi-Wen Gallery features three documentaries that probe Japan’s biological warfare in China during World War II and how survivors continue to live with the consequences

By Ho Yi  /  Staff reporter

He adds, somewhat oddly, that the West doesn’t see Japan as a perpetrator of violence.

“They see it as a victim, especially because of the atomic bombs. In Taiwan, China is the enemy; Japan is the friend. That is similar to the US.”

Under wraps

Lessons of the Blood can’t be shown publicly in China because it is critical of the communist party. Hong says there are currently only a few tiny museums started by the victims, and there are only limited investigations done by a few cities in Zhejiang.

In 1997, a group of biological warfare victims, led by Chinese activist Wang Xuan (王選), filed a lawsuit against the Japanese government. While a Japanese court concluded that the imperial government did commit acts of biological warfare in China, the government claimed that the issue of responsibility was resolved because China gave up the right to seek war reparations in the 1972 Joint Communique of the Government of Japan and the Government of the People’s Republic of China.

Victims, meanwhile, have received nothing from the Chinese government. Donations and aid mostly arrives from overseas.

Wang, speaking through Skype at the exhibition’s opening, said there is simply not enough care for the survivors.

“In China, on the media, we talk about how the Japanese military brutally killed the Chinese, and how poor and wretched those victims are. But when it comes to how we should help and care for them, no one talks,” she says.

For years, Wang has led college students to conduct inquiries throughout the region and bring medical care to the sick. It is virtually impossible to form a non-governmental organization for the war victims in China, where only apolitical NGOs are allowed. And the suffering of the victims “is by its very nature political,” Hong says.

Wang believes that in order to have a system of social aid for war victims, the government should carry out official investigations and set up a “database upon which a policy can then be based.” But the question remains whether or not such policy works toward the benefit of the authorities.

“Once the welfare policy starts, it should apply to all those injured and mistreated. But is the Chinese government willing to admit that it has also done damage to its own citizens?” she asks rhetorically.

In collaboration with Chi-Wen Gallery and the Taipei Women’s Rescue Foundation (婦女救援基金會), the exhibition by Hong and Chen is also a fundraising event for the rotten leg victims. All donations will go to victims through Wang and her group.

“It is summer now. The stench of [the wounds] will become unbearable. It is important that they have disinfectants and clean bandage to clean their wounds several times a day,” Wang urges.

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