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China marks first Martyrs' Day

(Xinhua/chinadaily.com.cn) Updated: 2014-09-30 10:58

China marks first Martyrs' Day

Delegates rally to honor and remember the deceased national heroes at the Monument to the People's Heroes in Tian'anmen Square, downtown Beijing, capital of China, Sept. 30, 2014, on the occasion of the first Martyrs' Day. [Photo/Xinhua] 

BEIJING  -- China has rallied to honor and remember deceased national heroes on the first Martyrs' Day.

On the eve of National Day, Chinese leaders including President Xi Jinping offered flower baskets at the Monument to the People's Heroes in Beijing's Tian'anmen Square on Tuesday morning.

The marble tablet, the foundations of which were laid on Sept 30 1949, stood tall against the gray sky of early Beijing autumn, over a crowd of people holding chrysanthemums.

School children wore white shirts and red scarfs, the uniform of China's Young Pioneers organization. The dark suits or army uniforms of more elderly members of the crowd marked them out as the family and friends of martyrs. Many wore medals on their chests.

Following a patriotic chorus song by the children and a period in which the whole crowd bowed their heads in silent tribute, a dozen baskets of lilies were laid in front of the monument. Taller than a man, each basket of flowers was carried by two soldiers.

President Xi led a group of senior officials on a walk of tribute around the monument. He tidied the red ribbon tied on one of the baskets before starting.

People's solemn faces stood in contrast to the bright square decorated with red national flags and a towering golden and scarlet floral basket celebrating the 65th anniversary of the People's Republic of China.

Facing the Tian'anmen Gate Tower and with its back to the Memorial Hall of late Chinese leader Mao Zedong, the monument is often visited by state leaders on National Day.

As indicated by the inscription on its front, "People's heroes are immortal," the monument was erected to remember those who lost their lives fighting for national independence and the public's liberation.

Today, it became the symbol of a new national memorial day, with China's top legislature setting Sept 30 as Martyrs' Day last month.

Martyrs, as defined by the government, are "people who sacrificed their lives for national independence and prosperity, as well as the welfare of the people in modern times, or after the First Opium War (1840-1842)."

It is estimated that China has about 20 million martyrs. However, only 1.93 million of them have been named in the government's directory while the rest could not be identified. The number has been increasing by about 300 annually in recent years.

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