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Manchuria and Shanghai (1931-1933)


Japan’s bid for regional predominance led it to invade the Chinese province of Manchuria and the port city of Shanghai. The ICRC played no role in providing relief but dispatched a delegate to enquire about the fate of prisoners.

Whereas there had been little organized resistance to the appearance of Japanese troops in Manchuria, fierce fighting took place when more contingents arrived in Shanghai in January 1932. An ICRC delegate who arrived on the scene a few weeks later visited 39 emergency hospitals set up by the Chinese Red Cross, as well as a number of Japanese military hospitals.

His attempts to find out about prisoners of war met with little success – the only ones he saw were a handful of wounded Chinese at a Japanese hospital. The delegate found that civilian detainees had already been visited by consular staff.

The principle action taken by the delegate was to provide a neutral escort, or “cover”, for teams of local volunteers who went searching for the bodies of Chinese who had been left in devastated parts of Shanghai. They were thus given a decent burial and the health risk the bodies posed was eliminated.