Nuclear Testing in China’s Western Territory

Lop Nor was once a 1.3 million acre lake in the Taklamakan desert of Xinjiang Autonomous Region until the Chinese military set up a secret nuclear test site in June 1959, detonating 45 nuclear bombs between 1964 and 1996. A Chinese military veteran, using the alias Liu Qing, told The Epoch Times in an exclusive interview about his experiences while serving in the nuclear unit and being sent for prolonged military exercises at ground zero.
Nuclear Testing in China’s Western Territory
Special police in Hebei Province beat a veteran from "Nuclear 8023" unit for petitioning the government for compensation. (Courtesy of Liu Qing)
<a href=""><img class="size-full wp-image-204623" src="" alt="Hydrogen Bomb test at Lop Nor, Xinjiang" width="331" height="248"/></a>
Hydrogen Bomb test at Lop Nor, Xinjiang

<a href=""><img class="size-full wp-image-204625" src="" alt="Veterans from "Nuclear 8023" unit staging a protest" width="322" height="241"/></a>
Veterans from

“The CCP treated us like non-humans during nuclear tests. Three minutes after detonation, 30,000 soldiers were sent to the field. Tank forces, armored troops, and cavalry had to drive to the bombing site for training. Of course the high-ranking leaders were not there. Each time we carried out a mission at the bombing site, we had to live there for months,” Liu said. 

According to Liu’s conservative estimation, at least 100,000 soldiers have served in the Nuclear 8023 unit during the 32 years and are suffering from different levels of radiation exposure and health damage. 

“After each explosion, sample testing of nuclear exposure was conducted on soldiers who participated in the drills and taken away by staff from the headquarters. The information was highly confidential and never released. For decades, the CCP never followed up on the health of those who participated in the nuclear tests. They threw us away after they were done with us and didn’t care a bit about us,” Liu said.

Radiation Effects 

In October 1985, 24-year-old Liu returned to his military base after the completion of a mission. It was also the beginning of his health failing, calling it “my nightmare.” 

At first there was a row of endless colds for which he was given injections and medicines. Then his teeth fell out. At the same time he had chronic stomach pain, nasal inflammation and was diagnosed with type B hepatitis. His white blood cell count was very low, he said, in addition he has been suffering from insomnia ever since. 

Liu said he has taken countless types of medicines and shots these recent years. One year his medical cost was three fourth of his entire work unit’s medical budget. “My coworkers were all complaining about me, and I was the headache for the supervisors,” Liu said.

The nuclear radiation has also affected his son’s health. “My son is only 20 years old, but his immune system is very weak, he catches colds very often,” Liu said.

Compensation Denied 

Most of the retired military personnel from the former Nuclear 8032 unit, who are sick, are not recognized by the government as having been wounded or disabled as part of their service. They receive no compensation for the permanent health damage from nuclear radiation. 

When veterans went to the government to petition, police beat them up, sometimes cracking open the skin on their heads, with blood flowing, Liu said. 

<a href=""><img class="size-full wp-image-204629" src="" alt="Special police in Hebei Province beat a veteran from "Nuclear 8023" unit" width="358" height="463"/></a>
Special police in Hebei Province beat a veteran from