Canadian PM Harper honours war dead in Hong Kong
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Sunday visited a war cemetery in Hong Kong, paying tribute to Canadian troops who lost their lives defending the city against Japanese invaders during the second world war.
Harper marked Remembrance Day, an annual memorial day for the war dead that has been observed since the end of the first world war in 1918, in Hong Kong, one of the first Asian battlegrounds of the second world war.
The prime minister was on the last stop of an Asian trip, during which he also visited India and the Philippines.
“Of the courageous, desperate and bloody defence of Hong Kong in which badly outnumbered Canadians gave their lives, here they laid nearly three hundred of them,” Harper told a solemn crowd of more than 100 at the cemetery.
“By their deaths, they made possible the freedom we enjoy, the democracy by which we govern ourselves and the justice under which we live,” Harper said.
Students from local Canadian schools sang songs and laid poppies on pearly white gravestones, some of which bore no names, at the picturesque hillside Sai Wan War Cemetery laden with Canadian flags for the occasion.
A total of 1,505 Commonwealth casualties of the second world war are buried or commemorated at the cemetery where 444 of the graves are unidentified.
Japanese forces on December 8, 1941, attacked the former British colony, which was defended by hopelessly outnumbered and outgunned allied troops from Britain, Canada and India.
The assault came a day after Japan landed what it hoped would be a killer blow on the United States at Pearl Harbour.
Hong Kong surrendered on Christmas day after 18 days of desperate fighting where around 4,000 soldiers from both sides were killed in battle.
About 290 Canadians were among the some 2,100 allied troops killed in the battle. Hundreds of survivors endured years of abuse and starvation as prisoners of war, leading to more than 260 additional Canadian deaths.