“The chief of the militia said that someone had to stay on the island and protect it. So I promised him I would stay and I’ve kept that promise”. Said Wang, who was just 29 years old when he set off to protect the island in 1986.
The island is so remote that the first four attempts by the Chinese military to post sentries there were a complete failure; the longest anyone could stand was 13 days, while one group lasted just a few hours.
Then came Wang Jicai, who was not told his mission when he departed to the island. He followed his orders and stayed. He has now been guarding the island for 29 years.
Kaishan Island is 13,000 square meters, equivalent to the size of two football fields. It is one of China’s 7,372 islands of which 450 are inhabited. With a total area of 80,000 square kilometers， they make up less than 1% of China’s national land area yet they dominate much of the country’s military and political news.
After the Communist party took power in 1949, an army garrison was stationed on Kaishan Island to protect it. In the 1980s, the army downsized the base to a military sentry post manned by a single man.
“Sir, I don’t smoke or drink,” Wang told his commander who had arranged 6 packs of cigarettes and 30 liters of liquor for him when he first sent him out. “You’ll learn how to drink and smoke on the island,” the commander replied.
As soon as he set foot on the island, Wang realized why the villagers back home described the island as a prison. No trees, steep cliffs, dark tunnels and empty barracks, just the remnants of past wars were left on this protruding rock.
Wang’s wife, Wang Shihua eventually joined him and the couple has been raising China’s national flag on this small island for the past 29 years.
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