Hebei farmer guards fort left behind by Japanese invaders for 31 years

Source:Global Times Published: 2017/7/9 16:28:39

Cao Wentong salutes the fort. Photo: CFP

This comparison photo shows the former Japanese military fort before and after Cao renovated it. Photo: CFP

Cao cooks in his house next to the fort. Photo: CFP

Cao installs a surveillance camera. Photo: CFP

Cao clears grass and trash from the railroad he paid to have repaired. Photo: CFP

On the 80th anniversary of the July 7 Incident that ushered in Japan's full-scale invasion of China, Cao Wentong, a 67-year-old farmer in Cangxian, North China's Hebei Province bought some construction materials to mend a fort that was built in his village by the Imperial Japanese Army.

Cao has been living near the fort for 31 years now. The fort was built during the Japanese invasion to oversee a stretch of railroad used to transport wartime materiel. Back then, the Japanese had a camp near the fort and the village.

"You can see there are bullet holes in the walls of the fort, they are the witnesses of the battle between the Red Army and the Japanese army," Cao told media.

In the 1980s, many villagers were flush with newfound prosperity and there was a local construction boom. Many dug around the fort and the building almost collapsed. Cao volunteered to protect the fort and bought the material needed to maintain it with his own money. Every year, he needs to reinforce its roof and foundations and prop up the walls so they don't collapse. He has also learned how to install surveillance cameras to protect it from thieves and vandals, setting several up around the building. In order to do a better job, he even moved his house next to the fort.

In 2002, he sent an application to local government, hoping to have the fort recognized as a historical site and acquire funding for his work. In 2008, the government made the fort a township-level cultural relic site.

Over the 31 years he has protected the fort, Cao has met many people who wanted to remove it. There were those who hate the Japanese and want this symbol of their invasion wiped from the face of the earth, others who wanted to cannibalize it for building materials and even some who wanted to dismantle it and move it to a museum. Cao turned them all down.

"I wanted to preserve this piece of history, so that our children do not forget," he said.

Newspaper headline: Fortifying history

Posted in: IN-DEPTH

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