On his 22nd birthday, Corporal Li Lei sent a WeChat update from a United Nations compound in South Sudan. A firefight between government forces and rebels had erupted in the capital, Juba, and threatened to engulf the camp where his Chinese peacekeeping force was standing guard.
His birthday wish, sent on the messaging app on July 8 with a picture of a blue U.N. helmet and helicopters overhead: “That all my comrades remain safe.”
It was the last his friends and family back home heard from him. Two days later, a rocket-propelled grenade hit Cpl. Li’s armored vehicle, witnesses and the Chinese military said. He died two hours later. A colleague, Sgt. Yang Shupeng, died the next day.
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Image courtesy of ZUMA PRESS