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Chinese team seeks return of POW remains

A RESEARCH team made up of Chinese history experts, media professionals and interpreters will set out on Monday for Papua New Guinea in a mission to find the remains of Chinese soldiers who died there as Japanese prisoners of war.

The researchers will be looking for the remains of hundreds of Chinese soldiers - including some who took part in the ill-fated defense of Shanghai - who were shipped to the island to work as slave labor in the late 1930s. The team intends to document the grave sites in preparation for bringing the bodies back to China.

The camp where the Chinese were held was discovered in 2007 by Su Mingxian, a history professor at Australia's Griffith University and an expert on China's War Against Japanese Aggression. Su will join the Chinese research team in Papua New Guinea.

Graveyard visits

The team will spend three days researching graveyards in Rabaul and then will return to Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea, to interview an ethnic Chinese who was an interpreter at the prison camp. The researchers are due to return to Beijing on April 19.

Qin Gang, spokesman for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, said in late March that China will "commemorate these martyrs" and bring their remains back in a "stately and solemn" fashion.

The Chinese Embassy is now negotiating on the removal of the remains with Papua New Guinea officials.

Though Su found the camp, the graveyards were discovered by an Australian pilot and reported by Taiwan-based press around the end of last year. A Beijing Netizen posted the article on, one of the most popular Chinese Websites, attracting the attention of millions of people. The Website then organized the team to go to Papua New Guinea and develop a plan to bring the war victims home.

The remains of more than 1,000 Chinese are reportedly scattered among the mountains of Papua New Guinea. These soldiers, including survivors of General Xie Jinyuan's "800 heroes" who took part in the final phase of the battle of Shanghai in 1937, were captured by the Japanese.

Soldiers from New Fourth Army and Chinese expeditionary army fighting in Burma, now also known as Myanmar, were also among the prisoners of war on the island.

The former cemetery at Rabaul where the solders were buried has been flattened and only three tombs remain. Two carry Chinese inscriptions.

According to Australian soldiers who liberated the camp at Rabaul, about 1,600 Chinese soldiers were held there and 653 of them died.

Ninety-five-year-old Yang Yangzheng, one of the two survivors of the "800 heroes," said the remains of the soldiers should return home.


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