Liberation Day to live on, say veterans

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 25 August, 1996, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 25 August, 1996, 12:00am

WAR veterans have vowed to commemorate Liberation Day after 1997, even if they have to change their venue from the Cenotaph to a small church.

'If they turn us down, we will just go to a church and say a silent prayer,' said veteran Arthur Gomes. Tomorrow marks the last Liberation Day in the territory.

Mr Gomes, chairman of the Hong Kong Prisoner of War Association, said he would apply to the Commissioner of Police and the Urban Council next year, as he has done every year, to seek permission for a ceremony at the Cenotaph.

'I hope the commissioner won't turn down my request because it's a traditional function - it observes everyone's liberation.' Next year, freedom from Japanese occupation will be celebrated on August 18, a public holiday - to be called Sino-Japan War Victory Day.

'We can't count on a firing party or bugler any more, so we will return to the earlier ceremonies we had, where a padre said a prayer. We had the Lord's Prayer, put down wreaths and had a moment of silence,' Mr Gomes said.

'They [the Chinese authorities] are not a bunch of meanies. It's meaningful to the people of Hong Kong. If the worst comes to the worst, we can have a little dinner party or have a drink together,' he added. 'But we're not going to go underground.' Ex-prisoner of war Jack Edwards said: 'It's up to the Special Administrative Region government, but we have tried to stress that we all fought the Japanese.

'I hope they will continue to remember this day in the same way.' Liberation Day falls two days before the arrival of Japanese Foreign Minister Yukihiko Ikeda on Wednesday.

Mr Edwards said he planned to 'embarrass' the Japanese Government into opening up war files.

'The only way I will ever beat them is by public opinion. I have my own support group in Japan. I will be looking to embarrass the Government,' he said.

He is also seeking information on the fate of more than 4,000 Japanese war criminals being hunted in Southeast Asia at the end of 1948.

'Nearly 50 years on none has been captured and nobody knows why not.' By the end of 1948, 24 teams of allied officers and ex-prisoners of war were scouring the region to try to find Japanese officers responsible for atrocities.

'When I left Hong Kong in late 1948, I left in disgust. The wheels of justice were too slow,' Mr Edwards said.

When he returned, the teams of officers had given up the search.

'I came up against a brick wall. I don't think there were even any records of the crimes left.' British Garrison spokesman Major John Herring said there were no records left in Hong Kong. The Royal Navy, the Army and Royal Air Force will stand with veterans for the last time for the Liberation Parade at the Cenotaph at 10 am tomorrow. The Royal Gurkha Rifles will be on parade and military bands will play.

Major-General Bryan Dutton, Commander British Forces, will lay a wreath.



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