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Hong Kong's second world war history

Mainland director of war film says Hong Kong youth can be ‘rational’ if educated about history

Journalist-turned-director Liu Shen will premiere his documentary on the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong in a one-day private screening; plans wider release if response is good

PUBLISHED : Monday, 28 November, 2016, 11:11pm
UPDATED : Monday, 28 November, 2016, 11:13pm

Educating Hong Kong’s youth about history is not a panacea to the current political turmoil, but it will at least provide a premise for more “rational decisions” by the young, a mainland researcher-cum-director has said.

Hongkong: War and Peace – a documentary by veteran journalist Liu Shen about the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong – will premiere today in a one-time-only private screening.

Liu, 57, said his film, which was halved to about 150 minutes for the screening, contained little-known archived footage and featured interviews with war veterans and civilians – one of many chilling moments in the show being interviewees sharing stories of surviving famines by eating grass, rats, and some even witnessing cannibalism.

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According to Liu, the project came about after he realised there was a gap in reference materials about the Japanese occupation in Hong Kong.

Liu believed the political conflict between Hong Kong and the mainland is in part due to the city’s youth having little knowledge about history, adding he noticed that the Japanese occupation was not – or only briefly – mentioned in teaching materials in schools. He said such knowledge would help create a shared history.

While this is not a quick-fix to the current political situation, Liu said at least it might ensure that the young make educated choices and actions.

The premiere of Liu’s film comes after Beijing handed down a ruling on November 7 which effectively disqualified two localist lawmakers-elect for their pro-independence stance. Sixtus Baggio Leung Chung-hang and Yau Wai-ching had insulted China and pledged allegiance to a “Hong Kong nation” during their Legislative Council oath-taking on October 12.

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Liu cited the duo’s usage of the term “Chee-na” – a variant of the derogatory “Shina” used by Japan in the second world war. He said Hong Kong’s youth “may not know the severity” of the term.

“We need to tell them it is fascist language. No one will dare to say, ‘I support fascism’ in any civilised place,” he added.

But Liu denied any political agenda behind the project, claiming it was initially for historical research, but events such as the 2014 Occupy movement – when filming on his documentary began – eventually dictated the relevance to current issues.

If the response was good, the director said he might have more screenings, including sending the production to foreign television networks or releasing it as supplementary education material.