"As the documentary showed, the best universities at that time in Japan all provided research personnel for the invading army and became accomplices to the war crimes," said Hiroshi Onishi, a professor of economics at Keio University in Tokyo.
He added that the documentary sounded the alarm bell for the present, as Japan's Defense Ministry started a research funding program called National Security Technology Research Promotion in the fiscal 2015, which assists and supports the research of technologies that could be used for military equipment.
"Budget for the program was 300 million yen (2.71 million U.S. dollars) in fiscal 2015, 600 million yen (5.42 million U.S. dollars) in fiscal 2016, and surged to 11 billion yen (100 million U.S. dollars) in fiscal 2017," said Onishi.
"While the government is cutting funds for fundamental research, the surge in budget for the funding program for military research could lead astray the research in universities and research institutions, especially public universities which rely on government support," said Onishi.
Satoru Ikeuchi, professor emeritus at Nagoya University, said the researchers, once in the government funding program, have to report their research results to the Defense Ministry, and even after the sponsorship ends, follow-up surveys on the researcher could still be conducted, and researchers involved could hardly get rid of the influence of the Defense Ministry.
Japanese academic circles have been stepping up their protests against this research funding program. Science Council of Japan (SCJ), an organization set up in 1949 to represent Japan's scientists both domestically and internationally, issued a statement in March, reiterating the commitment not to conduct research for military purposes, and calling for scientists not to join that program.
Takashi Okada, commentator from Japan's Kyodo News, said that stepping up support for military research was consistent with the Abe administration's previous policies including the attempts to revise pacifist Constitution, lifting the ban on collective self-defense rights, and allowing exports of military equipment by changing the "Three Principles on Arms Exports."
If this trend goes on unchecked, academic freedom and independence would be infringed upon and the past mistakes of scholars becoming accomplices of war crimes could be repeated in Japan, a number of Japanese scholars told Xinhua.
"In this sense, records about the atrocities committed by Unit 731 should also be listed on the UNESCO Memory of the World Register, just like the documents about the 1937 Nanjing Massacre, so that that historical lesson could never be forgotten," Okada said.