An Epoch Times news bureau recently received a letter from Liu Zhenxiong, a military veteran from Guangdong Province. He represents tens of thousands of veterans whose health and lives have been adversely affected by handling uranium in the 1970s. Liu provided the following detailed information.
On November 23, 2006, the Guangzhou Daily ran the article, “Uranium in Guangdong Makes China's First Atomic Bomb.” The article states that two-thirds of the ammonium biuranate from the first atomic bomb tested in China came from Guangdong. In less than a year's time, the 705th Geography Division delivered 30 pounds of ammonium biuranate to make atomic bombs for the office of the National Defense Industry.
In the letter, Liu states that early in the 1970s, numerous veterans joined the 203rd division of the military. Many soldiers, mostly from Guangdong Province, also joined the division over the years.
Throughout the decade, the number of enlisted soldiers numbered in the tens of thousands. According to Liu, the soldiers helped produce nuclear fuel for the military, and were responsible for delivering it to the nuclear test base, which exposed them to radiation and hazardous chemicals. Every soldier was exposed to radiation, as they served an average of three to thirteen years.
The letter mentions that some troops of the 203rd division lived directly above the mine. They refined radioactive elements such as radium, uranium, and thorium. Exposure to radiation is toxic as it accumulates in the body, and is known to cause various types of cancers.
Incomplete statistics show that among the veterans from the 203rd division, the death rate has already exceeded 10 percent. The remaining veterans have different degrees of multiple chronic diseases. Some have nerve damage and are incapable of rational thought or communication. Those with severe nerve damage have brain atrophy, schizophrenia, or are mentally deranged.
Some cases are excerpted in the letter: “Yu Linyuan, Zhu Yueqing, Ou Zhihua … etc. … are confused, mentally slow, and show various degrees of brain atrophy. They can't afford medical treatment for their health problems. Many of the veterans show premature baldness and other symptoms of premature aging.”
“Former regimental commander Bian Yutian died in his 50s. Cui Feng, a former battalion commander, died of skin cancer in his 60s. Cui's wife, Wang Yuanzhen, the Deputy Director of a laboratory, died of laryngeal cancer in her 50s.
In one squad of 12 in a battalion, 10 people have already died. One person died of liver cancer, the other nine people died of nasopharyngeal or laryngeal cancer.”
The Epoch Times contacted a regimental commander, whose surname is Chen. He had served in the 203rd division, and currently works in Beijing. Chen has a lot of contact with the nuclear industry; and recently received an appeal for compensation from the veterans.
Chen remarked that, “The soldiers who were refining uranium back then were definitely exposed to nuclear radiation … It is possible there were tens of thousands of soldiers exposed to nuclear radiation over the ten-year period …We need to investigate the damage to their bodies caused by the radiation.”
Currently, most of these veterans live in farming villages. The jobs they had in the military no longer exist. They are unable to work as they are suffering from cancer and other chronic illnesses.
Since 2006, many of the veterans in Guangdong Province who were exposed to nuclear radiation have gone to Beijing to appeal for compensation. The latest appeal was on December 8, 2007. So far, the government has not responded or provided any compensation. Whenever the veterans have appealed, the government has mobilized armed soldiers, officials, and public security officers to restrain them.
The Livelihood Observation will continue to monitor this issue, and insist that the Chinese government makes restitution. It is only fair that the government should help the soldiers who sacrificed their lives, or the quality of their lives, for their country.