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Xinhua Insight: China ratifies Martyrs' Day

BEIJING, Aug. 31 (Xinhua) -- China's top legislature on Sunday approved the establishment of a national day to commemorate martyrs.

The decision was made at the bi-monthly session of the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress which ended on Sunday.

It said Martyrs' Day will be marked with events across the country on Sept. 30 every year.

The move is aimed at "publicizing martyrs' achievements and spirits, and cultivating patriotism, collectivism, and socialist moralities so as to consolidate the Chinese nation's cohesiveness," the top legislature said in the decision.

It is the third national memorial day in China, following "Victory Day of the Chinese People's War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression" on Sept. 3 and "National Memorial Day for Nanjing Massacre Victims" on Dec. 13, both ratified by the Standing Committee of the National People's Congress in February.

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 First Opium War (1840-1842)."

It is believed that China has about 20 million martyrs. However, as many of them did not leave their names in warring days, only 1.93 million martyrs have been enlisted in the government's directory. About 300 more people have been identified as martyrs annually in recent years.

Zou Ming, a senior official with the Ministry of Civil Affairs (MCA), said the setting on Sept. 30, one day before the Oct. 1 National Day, has great significance as people will take time for a more somber occasion before celebration.

In addition, Sept. 30 was the day on which the foundations were laid for the Monument to the People's Heroes, which stands at the heart of Beijing's Tiananmen Square.

The MCA initiated feasibility studies on setting the day in 2005, and won public support after soliciting opinions in the following years.

Zou said the central government will guide local governments to hold events on Martyrs' Day. The MCA will encourage public participation.

It has asked the management of over 4,300 sites dedicated to martyrs to go to schools, communities, factories and barracks to publicize martyrs' achievements, and vowed to better protect those facilities.

China has a long tradition of commemorating and honoring martyrs and other heroes who contributed greatly to the nation's development. About 100 million people visit martyrs' graves every year, and films, TV series and books about martyrs' achievements are popular.

The government also supports martyrs' families. Central authorities have issued regulations to protect facilities commemorating martyrs, and increased pensions for martyrs' families 23 times since 1978.

The MCA said about 200,000 martyrs' families now benefit from government's pensions. Each urban family receives 13,860 yuan (2256 U.S. dollars) every year, and rural families 7,970 yuan.

They also enjoy preferential policies in education, employment and other fields.

China has about 1 million martyrs' graves, and another 29,000 facilities commemorating martyrs administered and protected by a national system.

Over 170 facilities commemorating Chinese martyrs are also scattered in 22 countries and regions around the world.

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