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Norman Bethune
    2009-12-16 17:30:34     CRIENGLISH.com

In a recent CRI online poll, China's internet users selected Ten International Friends of China. Although many of them have since passed away, their contributions to China over the past century are still vividly remembered. Starting today, we'll bring you some of their stories. We will begin with Dr. Norman Bethune, a Canadian, who received the largest number of votes.

While talking about Dr. Norman Bethune, many Chinese People would express their respect for his great contribution to China's war of resistance against Japanese invasion in the 1930s. 70 years after Bethune died here in China, people still commemorate this hero from Canada.
Yao Yongmei has the details.


Norman Bethune was born into a family of Canadian clergy members in 1890 and graduated from the Toronto School of Medicine in 1916. In November 1935, he joined the Communist Party of Canada. Three years later, Bethune led a medical unit of Canadian and American doctors to Yan'an in China's Shaanxi province. During his stay in China, Bethune was dedicated to saving injured soldiers, and he once performed 71 surgeries in two days. On November 12, 1939, Bethune died of blood poisoning from a cut he received whilst performing surgery.

Decades after Bethune's death, people still remember this international hero. Roderick Stewart, a Canadian writer who has spent 40 years researching Bethune's life story recalls why he writes so passionately about Bethune.

"What stands out to me most about Norman Bethune is that throughout his life, he had the courage of his convictions. He had a deep belief in himself and was determined to take action based on what he believed, even gave up his position in the Montreal hospital, leaving behind his friends and risking his life. He did this first in 1936 when he answered the Spanish Civil War and set up a mobile blood bank service, and then again at the beginning of 1938 when he made his way to China after the invasion there by the armies of Japan."

To research Bethune's life, Stewart made visits to the places where Bethune lived and worked in China. And almost everyone he had met had a story to tell about Bethune.

In 2005, when Stewart paid a trip to Hebei Province, an 80-year-old woman overwhelmed him with her passionate account of how Bethune had treated her illness despite his busy schedule.

Although Bethune lived in China for only two years, he did a lot of work in the country, and Stewart says his contribution to the revolutionary cause of China still exerts influence today.

"I believe his most important achievement was he was successful in making the most of the young men that he was training believe that they had the ability to acquire the skills he had, and eventually to be able to do the work that he was doing. Those young students of Bethune who were inspired by him to believe in themselves went on to become prominent doctors in the People's Republic of China."

In 1972, Norman Bethune was recognized as "a Canadian hero with international influence" in Canada. And the Bethune Memorial House was opened in the birthplace and former residence of Bethune in 1976. Scott Davison, curator of the memorial house, says many people visit every day.

"The museum sees on average about 11,000 people each year, and we have seen those numbers fairly steadily for a number of years now C for more than ten years. Out of those 11,000, about 45 percent are visitors from China; they come from China to pay their respects to Dr. Bethune."

In 1996, the Bethune Memorial House was listed as a National Historic Site of Canada, and Bethune was declared a Person of National Medicine Significance in 1998. Davison adds that not only Chinese, but Canadian people are learning more and more about Bethune and are being moved by his story.

"One example of that is the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation ran a competition a few years ago to talk about the greatest Canadian and there were hundreds of Canadians mentioned and they narrowed it down to the top 100 initially, and Dr. Bethune placed 26 overall."

2009 is the 70th anniversary of Bethune's death. Davison says memorial events are being held in China, Canada, and Spain.

"Right now there is an international event going on, and it's an event that we started here but that's been taken on by our friends in Shijiazhuang China at the Bethune Military Medical College, as well as in Spain and in Montreal, the four places connected with Dr. Bethune. And we're going to be displaying children's artwork at each of those four places in honor of the 70th anniversary of Bethune dying in China. So I think the memories are still quite alive between our countries."

Next year, Roderick Stewart and his wife Sharon Stewart are going to publish their latest biography on Norman Bethune, 'Phoenix C the Life of Norman Bethune'. Since Bethune has played an important role in the friendship between China and Canada, it is expected that people in both countries will get to know each other better through his story. And Bethune's spirit will be spread to more people.

For China Now, I'm Yao Yongmei.



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