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On Kaishan island, guardian of China’s first line of defence dies

Wang Jicai said he always believed the remote Kaishan island was an inalienable part of China, and the country’s first line of defence.

world Updated: Aug 01, 2018 12:48 IST
Sutirtho Patranobis
Sutirtho Patranobis
Hindustan Times, Beijing
China,Kaishan island,Wang Jicai
Wang Jicai took up the lonely job of guarding the remote and tiny Kaishan island in the Yellow Sea off China’s east coast.(Represnetative image)

Few in 1986 wanted to take up the lonely job of guarding the remote and tiny Kaishan island in the Yellow Sea off China’s east coast.

Before the offer came to Wang Jicai, four others did agree to do it but they only lasted about two weeks each. The conditions were harsh -- fierce winds battered the rocky island, there was no telephone line and supplies were delivered by boat.

Mostly it was the loneliness: There was no one else on the island.

Wang took up the offer. As it turned out, he lasted 32 years on the job until he died last week at 59.

Standing guard with him – watching ships go by near Yanwei port at the junction of Japanese and South Korean international waters – was his wife, Wang Shihua.

She quit her job as a primary school teacher to join him within months of his posting on the island.

“The post of Kaishan Island militia sentry was created in 1985, when the previous troops stationed there withdrew because of a military reorganisation. The next year, the military asked Wang Jicai, a 26-year-old militia member, to guard it,” state-run China Daily newspaper reported.

According to the Guanyun county government, Wang said he always believed the island was an inalienable part of China, and the country’s first line of defence.

“He promised to protect it always. It's a promise he kept. None of his four predecessors stayed longer than 13 days before quitting because of the harsh conditions,” the report added.

The couple’s two children – their second child, a son, was delivered by Wang on the island – grew up with their grandparents.

Part of the couple’s job was to raise the Chinese flag on the island everyday.

The newspaper reported that according to the county government, the couple also “monitored sea and air conditions, rescued people at sea and kept records in the coastal defence log”.

Over the years conditions improved. “Now, solar energy and wind power generate electricity on the island. Television, air conditioning and other household appliances are available. The barracks have been renovated and equipped with bathrooms,” the report said.

The situation on the island changed but not the couple’s daily military-style routine.

“Wang Jicai is the pride of Guanyun county and a hero of our era. He always held the belief that guarding the island was part of protecting the whole nation,” Zhu Xingbo, head of the county government, was quoted as saying at Wang’s funeral on Monday.

First Published: Aug 01, 2018 12:48 IST