21 July 2018

Rwanda: The Story of Rulindo Chinese Martyrs' Cemetery

Every year, China marks Chinese Martyrs' Day which falls on September 30, paying tribute to the people who made exceptional contribution to the national independence and prosperity, as well as for the welfare of the people in modern times.

The story is not different for the Chinese community in Rwanda.

What is unique, however, is that the Chinese community in Rwanda pay tribute to those who lost their lives trying to contribute to Rwanda's journey, unlike in China where they pay tribute to those who lost their lives from the First Opium War in 1840 to the founding of the People's Republic of China in 1949.

Each year, Chinese diplomats, aid workers, teachers, volunteers and other members of Chinese community travel to Rulindo district in the Northern Province, about 50.9 km from Kigali city, to pay tribute to 10 Chinese, some of whom sacrificed their lives.

This place is specifically known as 'Rulindo Chinese Martyrs' Cemetery'. This cemetery was built in 1982. From 1982 to 1997, a total of 10 Chinese who passed on working in aid projects in Rwanda were buried there.

These people are among numerous people including Chinese experts, medical workers, engineers and technicians who have been coming to Rwanda to work hand in hand with local people since the establishment of diplomatic relations between China and Rwanda, 47 years.

"The Chinese who rest in this cemetery are testimony of Sino-Rwandan friendship," Fang Fei, a former employee at China Road and Bridge Corporation in Rwanda, told The New Times in an interview this week.

The majority of the people buried here were former employees of China Road and Bridge Corporation in Rwanda, one of the first Chinese companies to work in Rwanda.

But the outstanding name at this cemetery is Chen Jian.

Chen Jian worked for the Gitarama-Kibuye road construction project. In June 1997, while transporting construction materials, he is said to have bravely fought armed robbers to protect aid project property, but lost his life.

He was conferred the title of martyr by Beijing.

According to Fei, Jian's family is currently based in China and that they have, in the past, attended a number of events to mark the Martyrs Day in Rwanda and to particularly honour his life.

Other names of the people buried at this cemetery include Liu Zhonghua, Ma Yusong, Su Anling, Yuan Jianbang, Li Liangsheng, Zhou Quiming, Qi Wushu, Chen Yanhua, and Chen Shou.

According to the Chinese embassy in Rwanda, the embassy in collaboration with other Chinese companies in Rwanda is still trying to collect more detailed information about all the deceased Chinese nationals.

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