Legacy of war in Asia

Host of 70th anniversary events in Hong Kong mark Japanese surrender in second world war

Second world war victims remembered, 70 years after surrender, as groups still fight for justice

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 August, 2015, 4:53am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 August, 2015, 9:59am

With today marking the 70th anniversary of Japan's surrender during the second world war, Hong Kong will stage a string of events to commemorate those who fell during the conflict and celebrate the liberation that came after three years and eight months of hardship under Japanese occupation.

It began yesterday with protests at the Japanese consulate in Central. About 20 members of the Hong Kong Reparation Association, mostly elderly people in their 60s, demanded compensation for the wartime currency that was forced on them.

"The Japanese government still has not compensated the bearers of military notes issued in Hong Kong during the war. They just left and now the notes are worthless paper," said association chairman Lau Man, 76.

Today the Society of the Veterans of the original Hong Kong Independent Battalion will hold a memorial ceremony at the Tsam Chuk Wan monument dedicated to the Sai Kung locals who resisted Japanese rule.

Tomorrow the Hong Kong Prisoners of War Association and the Royal Hong Kong Regiment (The Volunteers) Association will jointly hold a public remembrance service at the Memorial Shrine at the City Hall to honour soldiers sent by allied nations who sacrificed their lives for the defence of Hong Kong.

"There are now very few Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corps veterans still living and the majority of those have now settled either in the UK or Australia. We therefore do not expect any HKVDC veteran to attend the ceremony this year, but there will be others who served in other units in 1941 who will be in attendance," said Ronald Taylor, chairman of the Volunteers association.

Government officials, with undersecretary for home affairs Florence Hui Hiu-fai the highest-ranking representative, will attend the event, along with consulate officials of Britain, Canada, the United States and India. There will be no representative from the mainland authorities, who have declined invitations in the past.

A victory celebration parade will be organised by the Hong Kong Adventure Corps on August 30, the date that marked Japan's handover of Hong Kong back to Britain in 1945.

For the first time, the Hong Kong Holocaust and Tolerance Centre will run an exhibition to mark the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Shanghai ghetto, telling the stories of Jews' flight to and experiences in Shanghai during the war, and how some of them came to settle in Hong Kong.

Government publicity on the war anniversary has also been notably stepped up this year, with a newly added public holiday on September 3 in line with the mainland's designated national celebration day and a high-level delegation expected to join a military parade in Beijing.

Last week, the Home Affairs Bureau launched a website called "70th Anniversary of Victory of the Chinese People's War of Resistance against Japanese Aggression" and laid out a calendar of related events running until December.

An exhibition has been held at the Museum of Coastal Defence near Shau Kei Wan since May, and will be open until November 4, titled "Fighting as One: Reminders of the Eight Years' War of Resistance in Guangdong and Hong Kong".

"The fact this year is the 70th anniversary revives some interest from the public on what happened in Guangdong and Hong Kong during the war. People ask more questions about it," said the museum's assistant curator, Lee Ka-lok.

Beijng-based lawyer Kang Jian, who represents a group of Chinese forced labourers who have recently turned down compensation offers from Japanese company Mitsubishi, will give a talk in Hong Kong next month on their bid for justice.