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The Chinese Embassy in the UK Holds a Chinese New Year Reception for the Families of Lisbon Maru Survivors
2023-02-22 19:03

On 19 February 2023, the Chinese Embassy in the UK held a Chinese New Year reception in Gloucester for the families of the Lisbon Maru survivors and relevant people. The participants celebrated the Chinese New Year, experienced traditional Chinese culture and commemorated the touching story of Chinese fishermen’s heroic rescue of British prisoners of war on board Lisbon Maru in 1942. More than 150 people attended the event, including Mrs Denise Wynne, daughter of Lisbon Maru survivor Dennis Morley, Major (Ret’d) Brian Finch, who has over the years been committed to collecting the historical documents on Lisbon Maru, and representatives of the families of Lisbon Maru survivors. H.E. Ambassador Zheng Zeguang delivered a speech at the event.

Ambassador Zheng noted that Spring Festival is a time-honoured tradition of celebrating the Chinese New Year, and an occasion for family reunion and sharing joy and best wishes. Today is also the second solar term called Rain Water. On this auspicious spring day, it is most appropriate to gather with British friends who have special bonds with China to share memories and strengthen friendship.

Ambassador Zheng noted that in his letter to Mrs Wynne last August, President Xi Jinping pointed out that the touching story of heroic fishermen from Zhoushan, Zhejiang Province to the rescue of British prisoners of war on board 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, and also a historical episode epitomising the profound friendship forged between the people of our two countries. President Xi also encouraged the families of Lisbon Maru survivors to continue to work for the advancement of friendship between our two countries and expressed his hope to see positive contributions from more British friends to the growth of China-UK relations. This letter demonstrates the great importance President Xi attaches to friendship and cooperation between the peoples of China and the UK.

Ambassador Zheng pointed out that over the past 81 years since the Lisbon Maru incident, historic transformations have taken place in China. Zhoushan, which was once beleaguered by poverty, has become a city beaming with vitality. Having realised the first centenary goal of building a moderately prosperous society in all respects, China is now on the new journey towards the second centenary goal, that is, building China into a great modern socialist country in all respects.  Under the leadership of the CPC Central Committee with President Xi Jinping at its core, the Chinese people are working with confidence and solidarity to advance the great rejuvenation of the Chinese nation through the Chinese path to modernisation. We love peace, cherish friendship and stand for justice. We are committed to the path of peaceful development and endeavour to develop friendly and cooperative relations with all countries on the basis of mutual respect, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, equality and mutual benefit.

Ambassador Zheng stressed that since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1972, China-UK relations have made historic progress despite ups and downs. China-UK cooperation serves the fundamental interest of the two peoples and is conducive to world peace, stability and development. There is no geopolitical conflict between China and the UK. On the contrary, there is huge economic complementarity and extensive space for cooperation. It is my hope that the Lisbon Maru families and visionary people from all sectors will remember history, carry forward the friendship, and contribute to mutual understanding and cooperation between the two peoples and the sound and steady growth of China-UK relations.

Mrs Wynne shared her father’s story and her letter correspondence with President Xi Jinping last year. She once again expressed gratitude to President Xi for replying to her letter, saying that she fully felt President Xi’s touch with people and the great importance he attaches to China-UK friendship.

Major Brian Finch introduced the work he and other people had done over the years to collect documents on Lisbon Maru as well as plans for future commemorative events. He also encouraged efforts to carry forward the memory of the incident and promote friendly relations between the two peoples.

On the day of the event, the weather was sunny and spring was in full bloom in Gloucester. Minister Counsellor Wang Qi and Minister Counsellor Li Liyan from the Chinese Embassy presented to the guests, through video clips, the cultural traditions of Spring Festival, and what Zhoushan looks like today and the great changes the city has experienced over the years. A variety of activities were arranged at the event, including an exhibition of the intangible heritage of farmers’ painting in Xinji county, Hebei Province, Chinese folk music performance, fan painting, tea ceremony, and dumpling and sweet rice ball making for a taste of Chinese culture. Families of Lisbon Maru survivors and other guests came from across the UK, with many of them bringing their grandchildren or great grandchildren and some driving all the way from Scotland for the event. They participated in the activities with great enthusiasm and enjoyed chats with each other. They found the event highly meaningful which not only commemorated the Lisbon Maru rescue but also helped them know more about traditional Chinese culture, and expressed their wish to cherish this special friendship with China and to play an active part in exchanges and cooperation between the UK and China.

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