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Hong Kong's second world war history

Fact check: separating the myths from facts about Hong Kong WW2 guerrillas

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 22 August, 2015, 3:36pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 22 August, 2015, 3:36pm

Myth: The guerrilla fighters and messengers were Chinese Communist Party members.

Fact: Despite the guerrillas being led by the Chinese Communist Party, only around 200 out of the total 10,000 fighters were party members. The majority of them were Hongkongers who wanted to fight against the Japanese occupation.

Myth: Guerrilla fighters got their weapons from the British.

Fact: Some guerrilla veterans say that they picked up weapons abandoned by British soldiers. But research showed that British soldiers did not leave behind many weapons after they retreated. A lot of the weapons used by the brigade were bought in the black market.

Myth: The brigade killed hundreds of people.

Fact: It was estimated that the brigade lost around 160 lives and it killed at most 500 people. But the figures have never been established with accuracy because the nature of guerrillas meant fighters had no proper documentation and service records.

Myth: There is only one legitimate East River Column veteran association in Hong Kong... or are there many?

Fact: There are at least four associations claiming to be former members of the brigade, based in Cheung Chau, Lin Ma Hang, Tai Po and Sai Kung. Each claim to be the legitimate one and it is difficult to verify their authenticity. The Sai Kung one is more willing to come forward and give full accounts of their stories.

Source of information: Interview with Chan Sui-jeung, author of the book East River Column