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Former soldier fights to preserve Hebei war relic

Beijing: A retired soldier has voluntarily guarded a military watchtower in Hebei province for about three decades in the hope future generations can learn from it.
The tower in Jiedi village was built by Japanese troops during the War of Resistance Against Japanese Aggression (1931-45).
Cao Wentong, 67, moved to a home near the tower when he was 36, with the intention of protecting it from other villagers.
“It is evidence of the Japanese invaders’ monstrous crimes in China, which we Chinese should never forget,” he said, adding that to understand history, people need to see such relics.
The tower, which is made of concrete and bricks, is 4.43m high and has a footprint of about 40sq m, according to Cangxian county’s cultural heritage protection bureau.
Gun slots were placed in the walls for the Japanese soldiers to fire through. The watchtower was used to protect the Tianjin-Pukou railway, on which the Japanese transported supplies, the bureau said.
“Nobody can say how many Chinese villagers were killed here, only that it was too many,” Cao said.
Out of a sense of patriotism, Cao served in the army for five years until 1974.
After being discharged from the military, he returned to his hometown and found the tower in a state of disrepair.
In 1986, the local government gave Cao permission to build a house near the watchtower, making it easier for him to look after it.
After decades of effort, villagers have started to share Cao’s views and the tower has been listed by the county government as a protected cultural relic.
As a result, the tower has become increasingly popular, and heritage experts from different provinces have visited the site.
The tower has also become an educational site, attracting school students, soldiers and public servants. Cao often acts as a guide, recounting the watchtower’s history.
“To know and understand history, they need to see real evidence and hear what happened back in the 1940s,” he said.
This year marks the 80th anniversary of the start of the nationwide war against Japanese aggression in 1937. To commemorate the occasion, Cao repaired part of the tower wall, which was damaged by rain.
“This is my way to remember history and cherish peace,” he said
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