World / Victory parade

China's veterans await their day of honor

(Xinhua) Updated: 2015-09-01 19:32

BEIJING - About 100 Chinese veterans of the Chinese war against Japanese invasion in World War II have gathered in a five-star hotel in Beijing, in readiness for the parade to mark the 70th anniversary of the victory they fought for.

At lunchtime, they slowly wandered into the cafeteria. Most of them are aged over 90, with each being companied by a younger relative.

Wei Ke, 95, a former Eighth Route Army soldier, and his son sat at a round table and ate. They had traveled 1,800 kilometers from Chengdu, southwest China's Sichuan Province, to Beijing ten days ago.

Wei ate quickly as if he was still in the army. He joined the Eighth Route Army in east China's Shandong Province in 1938. Many members of his family fought the Japanese invaders, too.

"The food here is good. Tender and not spicy, very suitable for us," he said, after finishing a bowl of noodles. His son loudly reminded him that he should eat slowly, but Wei's hearing is not what it was.

A few of them already wore the wartime uniforms made for the parade: grey for veterans of the Eighth Route Army, led by Communist Party of China; and yellowish-brown for the Kuomintang (KMT) veterans.

Wei kept his uniform in his wardrobe in his hotel suite. Each veteran and the younger relative had a two-room suite, paid for by the government.

Security measures at the hotel have been stepped up, with double guards on all the gates and a secure perimeter. A health clinic on the second floor provides free checkups for the veterans.

"I have my blood pressure tested every morning and evening, and a cardiogram once a day. The doctors take good care of me," Wei said.

Wei's son took part in the recent parade rehearsal. Organizers had invited the young relatives so the veterans could avoid the chilly morning rain.

But Wei put on his grey uniform with the "Balu" (Eighth Route) badge on the left arm and watched on the hotel television. The old man stood straight with his eyes glittering. "It's just like the old days," he said.

Jiang Licheng, a former KMT army captain, stayed in the same hotel. Born in 1923 in central China's Hunan Province, he joined the army in 1938, when Japanese invaded Hunan.

"I was only 15 when I joined. Japanese planes had bombed my hometown, leaving me no choice," he recalled, sitting in the hotel lounge.

Dozens of veterans sat around small tables, renewing old acquaintances and sharing memories. An elderly woman with white hair played piano in the corner - wartime classics such as The Song of the Guerrillas and The Yellow River Chorus.

Jiang Licheng had his medals, most for his contribution to the war effort, but the invitation to take part the victory-day parade was the greatest honor, he said.

His nephew also went to the rehearsal. He told his uncle they had sat in an open-top minibus and rode through Beijing's Chang'an Avenue in front of Tiananmen Square.

"Maybe I'll wave to the TV cameras on the day," Jiang grinned.

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