PM joins veterans in paying tribute to soldiers who died defending HK Lawrence Stebbe will never forget the time he spent as a prisoner of war in North Point and Shamshuipo under the Japanese occupation during the second world war. Fighting for the British in 1941, Mr Stebbe, 81, was one of more than 1,000 Canadian soldiers who were incarcerated after the garrison in Hong Kong surrendered on Christmas Day that year. Yesterday he and other war veterans joined Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin at a remembrance service at Sai Wan War Cemetery to pay tribute to the 550 Canadians who died while defending Hong Kong. The service marked the end of Mr Martin's nine-day tour of Asia, which included visits to Beijing, Japan, Thailand, Sri Lanka and India. He met Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa on Saturday night to discuss trade issues and progress on the implementation of the 'one country, two systems' principle. 'It is my understanding that Hong Kong is still proceeding to universal suffrage,' Mr Martin said. 'It doesn't mean that it's going to happen in a fortnight but it is my understanding that universal suffrage continues to be the goal. 'After reading the Hong Kong press, I certainly don't think there's any shortage of the ability to demonstrate, to make one's views known or to dissent in Hong Kong. I think that's very important and I think that's a very good thing.' Mr Martin spoke briefly to Mr Stebbe and two other veterans who travelled from Canada for the service. They laid wreaths at the memorial and observed a moment of silence before singing the Canadian and Chinese national anthems. During the service, memories of the more than three years he spent in prisons and labour camps came flooding back to Mr Stebbe. 'The worst part was that one day you were a free man and the next you're in an environment that was so degrading,' he said. 'As you kept living in it there seemed to be no hope of ever getting out of it.' Mr Stebbe recalled how he lost all his possessions, including his rifle, camera and money, when he was told to evacuate the Shamshuipo position to move to Hong Kong Island. When he was incarcerated, all he had was the military uniform he was wearing. He did not even have a blanket. Another war veteran, Aubrey Peacock Flegg, 87, also spent some dark moments in Hong Kong and Japan as a prisoner of war, but he shared some of the fond memories he had of the city on his first trip back since the war. 'Hong Kong in 1941, I would safely say, was one of the most exciting cities in this world. Hong Kong was free and wide open. Boy, this was some place to be. We Canadian boys just ate it up. We had the time of our lives,' he said. 'It feels good coming back here. As a Hong Kong veteran during the war, people realise that and appreciate it. The reception we got here has really been outstanding. It's wonderful.'