By Jin Zhengbo, People’s Daily
On the eve of International Children’s Day this year, 12-year-old Bangladeshi girl Alifa Chin received an extraordinary gift, a reply letter from Chinese President Xi Jinping.
In this letter, Xi encouraged Chin to study hard, pursue her dream and carry forward the traditional friendship between China and Bangladesh.
Behind this letter is a heartwarming story.
When the girl was born in 2010, her mother suffered from a difficult delivery due to a severe heart problem. At that time, the visiting Chinese naval hospital ship Peace Ark received help and immediately sent military doctors to the local hospital to perform a cesarean section on her mother. Today, Chin has grown up healthily.
The Peace Ark has witnessed many touching stories like this. Since it was commissioned into the Chinese Navy in 2008, the hospital ship has set sail on 10 overseas missions covering more than 260,000 nautical miles. Having visited 43 countries and regions, the ark has provided medical services to more than 250,000 patients.
The love-spreading voyage of the Peace Ark mirrors the Chinese military’s boundless love of peace and respect for life, writing a chapter of peace in building a community with a shared future for mankind.
Inside the Peace Ark, there is a wall where a number of metallic medals are hung. These medals were presented to the naval hospital ship by authorities in Sierra Leone, Antigua and Barbuda, Chile, among others.
A Chinese military doctor gives an ophthalmic exam to a local patient in the medical service zone at the Tanjung Priok Port in Jakarta, Indonesia, Nov. 11, 2022. (Photo by Pu Haiyang)
“Every time we visited a country or a region, we were always awarded such medals by local government, military or civilians,” said Deng Qiang, captain of the Peace Ark. These medals are a symbol of friendship that transcend borders, he said.
After the super typhoon Haiyan, also named Yolanda, swept the Philippines in 2013 and brought severe disasters to the country, the Peace Ark rushed to the Philippines, which marked the first time China sent a naval vessel to overseas disaster-hit areas for a humanitarian medical mission.
To shorten the voyage, the naval hospital ship sailed the ship directly through the windy and stormy area and arrived in the worst-hit region a day ahead of schedule.
“The region was severely devastated. We started working without taking any rest,” recalled Cai Jinhui, head of the medical center of the Peace Ark.
The typhoon-hit area was troubled by a series of challenges such as water pollution and mosquito infestation, but they didn’t scare off the Chinese soldiers and doctors on the Peace Ark. They provided medical services all day long for 16 days, treating 2,208 patients and carrying out 44 surgeries on the ship.
Many cured patients presented Sampaguita, the national flower of the Philippines that symbolizes noble sentiments and deep friendship, to Chinese medical workers onboard. After the mission was completed, the Peace Ark set sail in the aroma of Sampaguita.
A fleet of Chinese naval vessels paid a friendly visit to Bangladesh in 2017. Photo shows Bangladeshi girl Alifa Chin and a Chinese military doctor in Chittagong, Bangladesh. (Photo by Shi Kuiji)
The Peace Ark has been lauded by local people wherever it goes.
When the hospital ship left Vanuatu, local residents sang songs and scattered flowers on the sea to express their gratitude.
In Kenya, when the Peace Ark slowly sailed away, a motorcycle convoy decorated with Chinese national flags was seen seeing off the ship, stretching a kilometer on the pier.
From the Pacific Ocean to the Indian Ocean, the Peace Ark has served the oceans with harmony and tranquility. It has launched maritime rescue operation drills, offered international humanitarian medical services, ensured distant-sea medical and logistics support, and attended joint military drills with foreign troops,
Today, the 10,000-ton-level professional hospital ship is increasingly advanced in equipment. It is equipped with a batch of high-tech medical devices, such as wireless stethoscopes, portable wireless smart endoscopes, and robots that can perform intravenous anaesthesia, offering reliable and efficient medical services for patients around the world.
A foreign military doctor said after visiting the ship that he was deeply impressed by Peace Ark for its science-based design, the expertise of the medical staff on board and the ship’s complete medical facilities.
Venezuelan Vice President Delcy Rodriguez said the Peace Ark lives up to its name, bringing cooperation, friendship and peace to the people of her country. She added that the mission of the Peace Ark is admirable and worthy of praise.
China’s Peace Ark came for peace and friendship, said then Prime Minister of the Republic of the Congo Clement Mouamba when the Chinese naval hospital ship visited the country in 2017. Transcending institutional and racial differences, the “envoy of peace” not only strengthens the friendly relations between the two sides, but also deepens the mutual trust between the two peoples, he said.