China, A ‘Victim’ of Biological Warfare, Wouldn’t Unleash COVID-19

Being a victim of biological warfare in World War II & Korean War, China is unlikely to have unleashed COVID-19.

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With the global spread of COVID-19 from its epicentre in China’s Wuhan, many suspect that the virus might have escaped from the Institute of Virology located in this capital of Hubei province.

Conspiracy theorists assert that this institute is an integral part of China’s ‘covert biological warfare programme’.

China’s advanced biotechnology infrastructure has led the Federation of American Scientists to assume that the country has “the requisite munitions production capabilities necessary to develop, produce and weaponise biological agents”. China has constantly denied that it has ever researched or produced biological weapons. Wuhan Institute of Virology, founded in 1956, had its National Bio-Safety Level-4 Lab designed by French engineers in 2015, and works in close collaboration with Galveston National Laboratory, a high security bio-containment lab conducting diagnosis and research on exotic diseases at the University of Texas, USA.

Wuhan Institute of Virology – Biosafety Level 4 Lab
Wuhan Institute of Virology – Biosafety Level 4 Lab
(Photo: Akhil Bakshi)

Nevertheless, a section of the media, including Washington Post, quoting a retired Israeli intelligence officer, are convinced, without producing any supporting data or evidence, that the institute is dedicated to producing biological weapons.

China’s ‘Commitment’ to Support ‘Prohibition Of Weapons of Mass Destruction’

As a signatory to the Biological Weapons Convention, the Chinese have consistently reaffirmed, at various international fora, their commitment to support “complete prohibition and thorough destruction of all kinds of weapons of mass destruction, including biological weapons”. They have demonstrated eagerness to cooperate multilaterally by making several constructive proposals on biosafety and biosecurity, capacity building and international cooperation on disease surveillance and coordination in case of alleged use of biological and toxin weapons.

Being a victim of biological warfare during World War II and the Korean War, and having experienced its horrific impact on life, China would surely refrain from developing this dirty technology.

Following the invasion and occupation of Manchuria in 1931, Japan began to sink her claws deeper into China, controlling large parts of the country. The Japanese were ruthless. People suspected of criticising their rule were tortured in the most bizarre way. Peppery water or paraffin wax would be poured down their nostrils. They would be brandished with incense sticks or red-hot iron. Or hung upside down and whipped. Mass slaughter was common – after which the villagers would be assembled to see the corpses. Suspects would be lined up and split open with a sword it public.

Japan’s Torture Methods & Biological Warfare

Not all who resisted Japan were executed. Some were taken to Harbin in Manchuria and interned in the Japanese 731 Bacteriological Unit, where 3,000 Japanese scientists raised rats and fleas and produced 300 kgs of bubonic plague germs every month. Under the guise of epidemic prevention, Unit 731 and its affiliated units were mandated, by imperial decree, to research and develop biological weapons to be used against the Chinese population.

Unit 731 Campus in Harbin, China
Unit 731 Campus in Harbin, China
(Photo: Akhil Bakshi)

In 1955, a book called 731 Bacteriological Unit was published in Japan after World War II, by Akiyama Hiroshi who had been a member of the unit. According to this book there was a group of buildings about four kilometres in circumference, manned by 3,000 personnel who raised tens of thousands of rats. In addition, they had 4,500 incubators in which they bred an astronomical number of fleas and produced 300 kilograms of bubonic plague germs every month.

Inside the complex was a prison with 400-500 Soviet and Korean POWs and thousands of Chinese freedom fighters who were made guinea-pigs for the experiments.

They were referred to as “maruta”, wooden logs. The tests performed on them were of extreme cruelty, killing at least 600 every year. Some were skinned alive; some were put into refrigerators to study frostbite; others were placed, without anaesthesia, on operating tables with white-coated scientists dissecting them like frogs. Men were tied to stakes in their underpants and exposed to bubonic plague, cholera, smallpox and other germs. Others were fed well and then infected with germs, and if this did not kill them, the experiment was repeated till they died. To breed the most virulent strains, prisoners were infected with lethal pathogens, like typhus and Yersinia pestis that causes bubonic and pneumonic plague.

Bacteriological test being conducted at Unit 731 in 1940.
Bacteriological test being conducted at Unit 731 in 1940.
(Photo: Akhil Bakshi)
Those who got infected the quickest were bled to death on a table, and their blood drained to infect other prisoners. Those who did not fall sick were shot.

Over 4 Lakh Chinese Civilians Were Killed by Japan’s Biological Weapons

As a result of successful experiments in the lab, large-scale field trials of ‘flea bombs” were conducted by the Japanese. Low-flying planes scattered plague-infected fleas, bred in the laboratories, on eleven Chinese cities, killing tens of thousands of people in the resulting bubonic plague epidemics. A team sent to Nanking infected wells, marshes, foodstuff and homes with typhoid and paratyphoid germs – leading to a vicious epidemic. The Japanese also infected Chinese civilians with Tularemia, or rabbit fever, the symptoms of which include pneumonia and a throat infection – like COVID-19.

About 400,000 Chinese civilians were killed by Japan’s biological weapons. The Japanese army claimed, with pride, that they had enough stocks of germs to kill 100 million people. 

Presumably, Japan planned to attack San Diego, on the southwestern coast of USA, with biological weapons on 22 September 1945. However, before they could execute their plan, the US obliterated Hiroshima and Nagasaki with atomic bombs, forcing Japan to surrender.

When the Soviet forces, advancing to liberate China, approached Harbin, Unit 731 tried to cover up all traces of its crime. The Japanese poisoned all the prisoners, intending to burn them and bury the ashes in a large pit. However, the panic-stricken executioners were unable to burn the corpses completely. They pulled out the half-burned corpses, separated the flesh from the bones, burnt the flesh to ashes and pulverised the bones in a machine. Finally, the main buildings were destroyed with explosives.

US’s Use of Experimental Biological Weapons

Even after the Japanese defeat, China found no respite. The Korean War started. America began to drop “germ bombs” on Korea and northeast China.

After Japan’s surrender, US investigators, headed by Dr Norbert Fell and Lt Col Arvo Thompson, had interrogated Japanese scientists and obtained complete information on their biological weapons R&D programme.

Keeping details of the research secret, the US granted immunity from war crimes prosecution to the scientists, and employed some of them at their newly-developed biological weapons research facilities at Fort Detrick, Maryland, and in Pine Bluff, Arkansas.

Meanwhile, Unit 731’s horrific activities were exposed by the Khabarovsk War Crime Trials conducted by the Soviet Union in December 1949. The US government belittled the trials as “vicious and unfounded propaganda”.

Today, the main building of Unit 731 is a museum that reminds people of the gruesome biological warfare experiments that were performed here by the Japanese Imperial Army.
Today, the main building of Unit 731 is a museum that reminds people of the gruesome biological warfare experiments that were performed here by the Japanese Imperial Army.
(Photo: Akhil Bakshi)

Soon after the Korean War broke out in 1950, the US Defence Secretary George Marshall received the Report of the Committee on Chemical, Biological and Radiological Warfare and Recommendations, advising urgent development of biological weapons. A US National Archives document reveals that in September 1951, the US Joint Chiefs of Staff issued orders to start “large scale field tests ... to determine the effectiveness of specific bacteriological warfare agents under operational conditions”.

The Chinese and North Korean allegations that US had indeed used experimental biological weapons on their civilian populations, were corroborated by the International Scientific Commission headed by Sir Joseph Needham, one of Britain’s leading scientists, and included scientists from France, Sweden, Italy, USSR and Brazil.

This, a major war crime, is denied by the US. During the Korean War, Korea and north-eastern China did face a series of epidemics, including viral hemorrhagic fever that was unknown in the region.

‘Conspiracy Theories’ Against China

Overlooking China’s historical sufferings, there are other conspiracy theories, presumably originating from countries that were established through genocide; industrialised through slavery, child labour and destruction of environment – and atomic bombed and napalmed their way to moral greatness.

One of these theories claims that China first created the virus and then its antidote, spread the virus, controlled it within the country with arrangements already in place, infected the world, paralysed global economy, and as stocks and oil price tanked they bought them wholesale for peanuts – all in pursuit of the Chinese ‘agenda’ to dominate the global economy and control the world! “To the wicked, everything serves as pretext,” said Confucius.

Confucius also said: “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall”. After being brutally battered in the recent past, China is merely trying to rise. Those adversely affected by its advancement speak disparagingly of it.

(Akhil Bakshi, an author and explorer, is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and Explorers Club USA, and Editor of ‘Indian Mountaineer’. His latest book isUkraine: A Stolen Nation. He tweets @AkhilBakshi1. This is a personal blog. The views expressed above are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)

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