LONDON, Nov. 11 (Xinhua) -- As Europe commemorates the centenary of the end of the First World War, now is the right time for Britain to put the record straight on Chinese laborers' contribution and thank them, said a lead campaigner.
Steve Lau, chair of the Ensuring We Remember campaign for a permanent memorial in Britain to the Chinese Labor Corps, said in a written interview that the purpose of the memorial is to give the Chinese laborers the same dignity as everyone else.
An estimated 100,000 Chinese volunteers were recruited for the British Chinese Labor Corps and transported to the western front to assist the Allies. Some 40,000 others were estimated to have served with the French forces.
World leaders gathered on Sunday morning at the Arch of Triumph in Paris to mark the Armistice Day.
Despite suffering heavy casualties - estimates are in tens of thousands - from the war as well as harsh conditions, the contribution of the Chinese laborers, who were referred to as "coolies" (laborers), or "chinks" at the time, has routinely been overlooked or relegated to a footnote in history.
"I feel that Britain made a promise "Never to Forget" and each year on November 11," said Lau, "It's time to make good on that promise for the Chinese - I do not believe the Chinese should be treated any better than any other group, but equally, they should not be treated any worse. Unfortunately, they have been treated worse for a very long time."
There's a lot of room for increased research into Chinese laborers, he said.
In one episode, there were some 3,000 stranded Chinese sailors who arrived in the UK on British ships that were then requisitioned by the military, and could find no ship to work on, Lau said.
These men worked in munitions factories, build many of the new aerodromes and famously there is a flood defence wall build at Orford Ness known even today as the Chinese wall. There is no published research on these men either, according to Lau.
"It is also good to remind the British people that China was a friend and ally in both World Wars, and that China remains a friend of the UK," Lau said.
"The so-called China threat is a myth created by people who do not understand China or deliberately want to paint a bad picture of China's rise. The story can show the other side of the argument, not of a China threat, but of the China friend," Lau said.
A memorial in honor of the Chinese laborers slated to be erected in Britain is currently under construction in China, Lau added.