Re­mains of over 600 ‘fallen he­roes’ from WWII re­turn home for burial

China Daily (Canada) - - CHINA - By XUE DAN in Teng­chong, Yun­nan xuedan@chi­

Seventy years af­ter they lost their lives de­fend­ing their moth­er­land in a for­eign land, more than 600 soldiers from the Chi­nese Ex­pe­di­tionary Force who fought Ja­panese troops in Myan­mar dur­ing World War II have fi­nally re­turned home.

A burial cer­e­mony was held on Thurs­day morn­ing at Elegy of the Na­tion Ceme­tery in Teng­chong, Yun­nan prov­ince, which borders Myan­mar.

Thou­sands of people, in­clud­ing vet­er­ans, de­scen­dants of the ex­pe­di­tionary force soldiers and lo­cal res­i­dents, at­tended the cer­e­mony, dur­ing which the soldiers’ re­mains were buried.

About 300,000 Chi­nese soldiers of the ex­pe­di­tionary force joined bat­tles against the Ja­panese in Myan­mar — then a Bri­tish colony — and western Yun­nan from 1942 to 1945.

Hu Qili, chair­man of the China Soong Ching Ling Foun­da­tion, said at the cer­e­mony that the bat­tles of the ex­pe­di­tionary force 70 years ago were an im­por­tant chap­ter in the War of Re­sis­tance against Ja­panese Ag­gres­sion (1937-45) and WWII.

“We will never for­get those fallen he­roes,” Hu said.

Wu Po-hsi­ung, hon­orary chair­man of the Kuom­intang from Tai­wan, said: “The cer­e­mony sug­gested the main­land au­thor­i­ties hold a very se­ri­ous at­ti­tude to­ward his­tory. To re­spect his­tory is cru­cial in the peace­ful de­vel­op­ment of cross-Straits re­la­tions.”

The his­tory of the ex­pe­di­tionary force was largely ig­nored af­ter 1949, when the com­mu­nists won a civil war with the Kuom­intang and founded New China.

It was only af­ter re­form and open­ing-up in the late 1970s that re­la­tions across the Tai­wan Straits started to warm up and that part of his­tory was re­opened to more people on the main­land.

“Many of my com­rades died on bat­tle­fields over­seas, and I miss them ev­ery day,” said Lu Cai­wen, an 89-yearold vet­eran of the Chi­nese Ex­pe­di­tionary Force.

“The me­mo­rial ac­tiv­ity showed that those soldiers did not die in obliv­ion. They will now rest in peace,” Lu said, adding that the event helped people, es­pe­cially the younger gen­er­a­tion, know more about his­tory.

Twenty-two cas­kets of re­mains and two of grave­yard dirt be­longed to more than 600 soldiers. They were col­lected by the Yun­nan Provin­cial Fed­er­a­tion of Re­turned Over­seas Chi­nese.

It was the sec­ond time the fed­er­a­tion has brought back re­mains of Chi­nese soldiers from over­seas.

In 2011, re­mains of 19 soldiers from the Chi­nese Ex­pe­di­tionary Force were re­turned home and buried in the same ceme­tery.

Li Rong, pres­i­dent of the fed­er­a­tion, said it lo­cated burial sites of the soldiers in Myan­mar in Namhkam, Bhamo, Lashio and Muse. The fed­er­a­tion was helped by ex­perts on the Chi­nese Ex­pe­di­tionary Force and the Myan­mar people, as well as Chi­nese people liv­ing in Myan­mar.

Be­cause this year marks the 70th an­niver­sary of the bat­tle in which the Chi­nese Ex­pe­di­tionary Force re­claimed Teng­chong from Ja­panese in­vaders, the cer­e­mony will serve to boost na­tional pride and in­spire people to re­mem­ber the he­roes and cher­ish peace, Li said.

Ge Shuya, a his­to­rian spe­cial­iz­ing in the Chi­nese Ex­pe­di­tionary Force, said nearly 100,000 Chi­nese soldiers died in Myan­mar from 1942 to 1945, and most of them were buried there.

“The ac­tiv­ity paid trib­ute to them. The sur­viv­ing vet­er­ans also de­serve our recog­ni­tion and should be taken good care of,” Ge said. Sun Li con­trib­uted to this story.

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