Fallen foreign heroes not forgotten

Wife carries on doctor's good work

For Zhou Sufei, Tomb-sweeping Day marks just one of the 365 days a year she spends honoring her husband, George Hatem (1910-1988), the legendary American doctor who worked for more than five decades to rid China of leprosy and venereal diseases.

Zhou, 91, has been running the Ma Haide Foundation since 1988 and every year distributes 20 awards - with a cash prize of 5,000 yuan ($700) - to people who have made a contribution to the treatment for leprosy.

"We usually give out the money before the Chinese New Year. It's not a lot of money, but for those winners who are doctors and nurses in the rural areas, this money could be very helpful," she said.

Born in Buffalo, New York, Hatem (his Chinese name was Ma Haide) was the first foreigner granted Chinese citizenship in 1949 after the founding of the People's Republic of China and was also made a public health official by the Communist Party of China.

His tomb is among those of famous artists, poets, musicians, soldiers and statesmen interred at Babaoshan Revolutionary Cemetery in Beijing's Shijingshan district.

On Monday, Zhou is planning to make her annual trip to sweep her husband's tomb. "It will just be family members," she said. "I take two flower baskets to his tomb with my son, grandson and daughter-in-law every year. My son is quite busy these days, so we have to wait for him. And there will probably be traffic jams on Tomb-sweeping Day, so we might go there in the afternoon."

Hatem provided most of the Ma Haide Foundation's funds before his death but the group now relies on donations from within China and overseas. However, with the depreciation of the United States dollar and the lowering of interest rates in recent years, "it has become harder for the foundation to get involved with charity projects", said Zhou.

Although she is worried about the future of the foundation, she has no fears about her husband's legacy being remembered.

"When I go to my husband's tomb, there are always flowers beside it," she said. "We have no idea where most come from. It might be his old friends, or families of his former patients."

Fallen foreign heroes not forgotten

Youngsters pay their respects at the North China Martyrs’Memorial Park in Shijiazhuang, Hebei province, to Dwarkanath Kotnls, a dedicated Indian doctor.[China Daily] 

Fallen foreign heroes not forgotten

Students place flowers at the tomb of Dr Norman Bethune, a Canadian surgeon, at the North China Martyrs’Memorial Park in Shijiazhuang, Hebei province. Bethune provided vital medical assistance to China during the War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression.[China Daily]

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