WWII sites in China to be preserved

The State Administration of Cultural Heritage has vowed to enhance the protection and preservation of sites and artifacts related to the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression (1937-45) for the sake of current and future generations.

The pledge comes on the eve of the first national memorial day, which falls on Wednesday, marking victory in the war.

"Key sites and evidence of the struggle during the war have a great emotional significance for Chinese people as well as a strong educational and diplomatic relevance today," said Li Xiaojie, head of the administration.

"Protecting them will provide conclusive evidence of our history and highlight the vicious crimes Japanese soldiers committed in China, and will nurture the younger generation's patriotism."

Li said 186 items and historical sites related to the war have been placed on the national protection list, and more are being recorded and registered.

Some are former battlefields, while others illustrate the Chinese people's resistance and the criminal actions of the imperial Japanese army.

Nevertheless, Li admitted some have been damaged and are in danger of being lost forever.

"Many sites are located in cities and this increases the difficulty of protecting them during the current wave of massive urban construction."

The administration has this year allocated 200 million yuan ($32.5 million) to safeguard sites and artifacts of historical importance. Twenty-nine more items on the national protection list will be open to the public by the end of this year.

Li stressed that the sites and artifacts will not be diminished by mass tourism but will be presented to the public in a dignified manner.

He believes China will eventually have a UNESCO World Heritage Site commemorating the war along the lines of the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland.

Evidence of the activities of the imperial Japanese army's Unit 731, infamous for its development and use of biological and chemical weapons in Harbin, capital of Heilongjiang province, could form the basis for such a site.

Jin Chengmin, director of the Museum of War Crimes Evidence by Unit 731, said important archaeological discoveries have recently been made, and a larger museum featuring more exhibits is set to open as early as next year.

Harbin introduced a regulation to preserve the area in 2011 in a rare move to safeguard sites from the war.

Zhu Chengshan, curator of the Memorial Hall of the Victims of the Nanjing Massacre by Japanese Invaders in Jiangsu province, believes it is crucial to provide a global perspective so that people can understand what happened.

"We are not alone", Zhu said. "We have to connect our suffering to all conflicts to warn people that it must never happen again."

A website commemorating victims of the Nanjing Massacre was launched by the museum in July and has attracted more than 1.65 million comments in the first month..

Dec 13 will be the first national public memorial day for the massacre, although city-level events have been held for many years.

"The work cannot be done overnight," said Zhu. "It's a long campaign from one generation to the next."