The PLA Navy held an event in Beijing on December 8 to celebrate the 70th anniversary of China's recovery of the Xisha and Nansha islands. The 95-year-old Li Jingsen, first officer of the Yongxing warship that joined the recovery mission, told the audience his personal experience of recovering those islands.
According to the Cairo Declaration and Potsdam Proclamation, China assigned four military ships from November to December in 1946, namely, Taiping, Yongxing, Zhongjian and Zhongye warships, along with government officials and relevant professionals, to recover the Xisha and Nansha Islands that were occupied by Japanese militarists. The recovery was carried out under the command of Captain Lin Zun.
According to Li Jingsen, the Chinese government then selected four ships from those provided by the US to carry out the recovery mission. Lin Zun, commander of the fleet, headed Taiping and Zhongye ships to recover the Nansha Islands, and deputy commander Yao Ruyu headed Yongxing and Zhongjian warships to recover the Xisha Islands. Government representatives and people who were to be stationed on the islands were onboard the warships too.
The naval fleet set sail from Shanghai on October 29, 1946 and arrived in Hainan's Yulin Port on November 9. Due to bad weather and strong wind and waves, the fleet heading toward the Nansha Islands returned twice to wait for the right moment. Yongxing and Zhongjian warships set out on November 27 and arrived in the main island of the Xisha Islands on the 28th November.
Li recalled that Yongxing warship sailed around the island and didn't find anything unusual. Having fired a warning shot to the sky, Li Jingsen led a dozen sailors to land on the island on a skiff.
In the following days, the soldiers and construction workers stationed on the island moved radio facilities, living necessities and pre-made island name steles onto the island.
The main island of the recovered Xisha Islands was named Yongxing after the warship. "I still remember vividly the moment when we erected the stele inscribed with Yong Xing Island," said Li.
On December 9 that year, Taiping and Zhongye warship set out from Yulin Port again and arrived at the main island of the Nansha Islands on the 12th December and renamed it Tai Ping Island, marking the completion of the recovery of the Xisha and Nansha Islands. After that, the Chinese Foreign Ministry issued a statement to the whole world, announcing that the Chinese government had recovered the islands in the South China Sea.
In May next year, Yongxing warship sailed to the South China Sea again to patrol the islands and reefs of the Nansha Islands, reaching the Zengmu Reef on the southernmost end. When the warship passed the Taiping Island on the way, Li Jingsen landed on it again with a team for inspection.
"I saw many signs showing that Chinese fishermen used to live there," Li said that apart from some destroyed Japanese military facilities, there was nothing indicating that foreigners used to live on the island.
"I want to emphasize that only relics of Chinese fishermen's activities were discovered during the recovery of the Xisha Islands by Yongxing warship and the later patrol of the Nansha Islands. It was enough to prove that the South China Sea islands have been Chinese territory since ancient times."
The Yongxing Island today has changed a lot. Sansha City of Hainan Province was officially established in July 2012, and the municipal government of this southernmost city in China is located on the Yongxing Island that Li Jingsen recovered many years ago.
Seeing pictures of today's Yongxing Island on the reporter's mobile phone, Li said he never thought he could see this day coming when they recovered the island, and he wanted to go there again if he had the opportunity.
Well in his nineties, this naval veteran also wished to see China become a maritime power in the world one day. "I'm sure it will come true," he said.