Slice of Life

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 24 March, 2009, 12:00am
UPDATED : Tuesday, 24 March, 2009, 12:00am

With commandos standing guard outside with fixed bayonets, the first war crimes trial of Japanese in Hongkong began at the Supreme Court on March 28. Spectators began streaming into the No5 War Crimes Court, including some well-dressed Chinese women. Fifteen accused were charged with committing a war crime on Lantau Island between August 18 and 26, 1945 - the beating, torture and maltreatment of inhabitants of Silver Mine Bay and the killing of nine. All pleaded not guilty.

The Japanese garrison was stationed at Cheung Hau Beach and had repelled an attack by Red guerillas on August 19 at 1pm. The Kishi company of soldiers took reprisal against three small farming villages nearby, Pak Ngau Hung, Tai To Tong and Luk To Tong, with roughly 300 souls. Every man, woman and child were arrested amid brutality, burning, looting and shooting. One woman died of fright, an amah was killed as she was watching over a child, who was wounded in the forehead and shot in the chest. Those arrested were paraded outside the beach swimming shed, where some were tied to stakes with rope and wire so their toes barely touched the ground. Women and children were made to kneel on the grass around the men. Two of the village elders, Tsang Sau (aged 60) and Lam Fook, were set upon, given a cruel beating and beheaded.

The next day three men were ordered to row away from the island. They have not been seen alive since and are presumed murdered. On August 20, the women and children were allowed to go. The punishment of the remaining captives, including torture and more beheadings, extended over a week. During this time the villagers were also compelled to contribute pigs, chicken, eggs, cakes and other food stuffs, and money and goods to the soldiers.

The Central China Army area is demobilising and will be completed by August, says a report from Chungking on March 26. But the Communist New China Daily charged that 107 Communists were robbed, beaten and jailed for 15 days by Kuomintang troops when they passed through the territory en route home. The paper also charged that there were widespread Kuomintang attacks in Shansi, north Kiangsu, Shantung and Suiyuan.

Under the headline 'Meeting World Shortage', a report from London on March 25 says British farmers, gardeners and even the humble allotment amateurs are busy with the 'Dig Against Famine' campaign. Responding to urgent government appeals to grow more food, they are working as they did during the dark days of the Battle of the Atlantic when every ounce of food grown at home was an ounce less exposed to U-boat attack.

Farmers who thought to turn their land to more remunerative crops have abandoned dreams of larger profits and are preparing to sow cereals as soon as the snow disappears. Gardeners and allotment holders are postponing for another year their hope of growing something decorative, turning their attention to beans, turnips, carrots and cabbages.

The National Allotment Society has called on members to grow ?10 million of food this year, although their contribution to the nations' supplies are estimated at ?30 million.

Allotments in parks and other public sites temporarily given up to grow more food during the war will remain so for another year at least. But the garden beds are not to be sacrificed again, as they have been planted with spring flowers to add a gay touch to the great Victory celebrations in June.

Lord Killearn, commissioner of the South-East Asia Food Conference which began in Singapore on March 20, described the meeting as the opening phase of a 'total war on hunger'. He stressed that 'there is not enough food to go round' and 'we are all going to have to eat less'. Representatives from Borneo, Burma, Ceylon, Hongkong, Indochina, the Netherlands, East Indies and Siam are attending the conference.