Hong Kong should give Gurkhas a proper memorial

PUBLISHED : Monday, 13 April, 2015, 6:48am
UPDATED : Monday, 13 April, 2015, 6:48am

Honouring ancestors during the Ching Ming Festival is not just confined to Chinese families. For years, the local Nepalese community has been following Chinese customs by paying homage to their compatriots buried at the Gurkhas Cemetery in Yuen Long. Sadly, the ceremony is less than dignified, with participants bowing to a flimsy foam board rather than a proper memorial.

The Nepalese have been pushing for a permanent monument to their heroic predecessors, but to no avail. Visits to the cemetery also do not come easy. As the graves lie in the surrounds of a People's Liberation Army barracks, advance permission from the British-based Commonwealth War Graves Commission and the Security Bureau must be sought each time.

It remains unclear whether Britain's Ministry of Defence has approved the calls for a proper memorial. As shown in the footage available on scmp.com/video, the ceremony on Purkha Diwas, the Nepalese ancestors' day, would have been solemn and dignified had it not been held in front of a makeshift structure. Observers were told not to hang floral wreaths on it for fear that it might tip over. The ceremony was a shame compared to ones held by the government and war veterans.

Although no Gurkhas died during active service in Hong Kong, they form an integral part of the city's defence history. The local Nepalese population numbers around 30,000 at present, including hundreds of Gurkhas who chose to stay beyond the handover in 1997. But they complain that their contribution to the city has not been given due recognition, as evidenced in the lack of a proper memorial in the cemetery.

Purkha Diwas is as much cultural education for the Nepalese community as a remembrance for the late Gurkhas, with their youngsters given the opportunity to learn more about their culture and identity. The Gurkhas form part of our history and deserve proper recognition. It would be a shame if their past is consigned to oblivion.