On 26 August, Ambassador Zheng Zeguang called on Denise Wynne, daughter of Lisbon Maru survivor Dennis Morley, at her home in Chalford, Gloucestershire, England, to deliver the reply letter from H.E. President Xi Jinping to her.
In his letter, President Xi pointed out that the touching story of heroic fishermen from Zhoushan, Zhejiang coming to the rescue of British prisoners of war on board the Lisbon Maru in 1942 is an important testimony to China and the UK fighting shoulder to shoulder as allies against fascist aggression during World War Ⅱ. It is also a historical episode epitomizing the profound friendship forged between the people of our two countries. The President wrote that he knew the episode well and made a point of bringing up the story during his visit to the UK in 2015.
President Xi stressed that this year marks the 50th anniversary of ambassadorial-level diplomatic relations between China and the UK. Over the past half a century, and owing to the hard work and dedication of numerous friendly personnel from both countries, China-UK bilateral relationship has kept moving forward. The President hopes that the families of the survivors of the Lisbon Maru will continue to work for the advancement of friendship between our two countries, and he looks forward to positive contributions from more British friends to the growth of China-UK relations.
When delivering the reply letter, Ambassador Zheng pointed out that President Xi Jinping's reply letter to Ms. Wynne fully manifests the great importance that President Xi attaches to the friendship between the Chinese and British people and his people-first and pragmatic leadership style. This is a great inspiration to people from all walks of life in the UK who are committed to promoting China-UK friendship. The brave rescue of British prisoners of war by the local fishermen in Zhoushan, Zhejiang 80 years ago is extremely touching and is a vivid portrayal of China and the UK fighting shoulder to shoulder against fascist aggression. He hopes that in response to President Xi's call to remember and cherish the history, the families of the survivors of the Lisbon Maru and people of vision from all walks of life in the UK will join hands and stay committed to promoting China-UK friendship, and make new contributions to the steady growth of bilateral relations at a new historical starting point.
Mrs. Wynne was deeply touched when she received President Xi's letter from Ambassador Zheng. She said she was really honoured and very pleased to receive the letter which President Xi Jinping, despite his busy schedule, wrote personally after reading her letter. She recalled her late father telling the family how the Chinese fishermen, with self sacrifice and outstanding courage, rescued British prisoners of war from Lisbon Maru, and saying that this part of history, the kindness of the Chinese fishermen and the profound friendship between the peoples of the two countries should not be forgotten. Mrs. Wynne wrote the letter to President Xi Jinping to thank him for mentioning this part of history during his visit to Britain in 2015 and to express the firm support of the families of the survivors of Lisbon Maru for the friendship between the Chinese and British peoples from generation to generation. She expressed the hope of visiting Zhoushan in the near future to meet the families of the fishermen who participated in the rescue and to revisit the historical stories of the friendship between the Chinese and British peoples.
Major Brian Finch, who has been committed to collecting the historical documents on Lisbon Maru and a friend of Mrs. Wynne said that the story of Lisbon Maru contained the very worst and the very best of humanity: the kindness of the Chinese fishermen was absolutely outstanding and unbelievable as was the cruelty of the fascists. The defeat of Japanese militarist in the Second World War was the success of justice. This touching history is worth remembering and the friendship between the Chinese and British people in the fight against fascism should be passed down from generation to generation.
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In October 1942, Lisbon Maru, a cargo vessel, requisitioned by the Japanese army to carry more than 1,800 British prisoners of war (POWs) from Hong Kong to Japan, was hit by the U.S. army off the Zhoushan Islands, Zhejiang province of China. A total of 843 POWs died, while 384 were rescued by local fishermen. The British officers and soldiers and the British government were deeply grateful for their courageous self-sacrifice.
During his visit to the UK in 2015, President Xi took as an example the rescue of POWs on Lisbon Maru to stress that the friendship forged between the Chinese and British people during the war will never fade and has become a valuable asset in the bilateral relations. The daughter of Dennis Morley, a survivor of the Lisbon Maru, wrote a letter to President Xi recently. She recalled China's rescue with gratitude, expressing solid support for an ever-lasting friendship between the British and Chinese people.