War Crimes in Hong Kong
Summary: If you have any information related to Hong Kong's War Crimes Trials held in the late 1940s, Ms Suzannah Linton (firstname.lastname@example.org) would like to hear from you. She is currently researching this part of Hong Kong's history.
The crimes date back to the World War 2, and the Japanese invasion and occupation of Hong Kong. There are three main groups:
1. Crimes during fighting
During fighting on Hong Kong island, Japanese soldiers committed several massacres. Victims included unarmed, captured allied soldiers, patients in military hospitals, and medical staff.
2. Crimes against Prisoners of War & Internees.
After the fighting ceased, the allied soldiers became prisoners of war (POW), and allied civilians were interned in Stanley Camp.
The single incident that claimed the most POW's lives was the sinking of the Lisbon Maru, a Japanese ship transporting POW's from Hong Kong to Japan. The ship was torpedoed by an American submarine. Japanese soldiers prevented the POWs from leaving the holds. As the ship finally began sinking, the POWs forced their way out, only to be shot at by Japanese on nearby ships. There were more than 1800 POWs on the ship, and over 800 died.
Other crimes related to the treatment of prisoners and internees in the camps.
3. Crimes against local residents
Outside the camps, the Kempeitai or Military Police were to be feared. Many local residents, including Chinese, Indian, and Eurasian, faced brutal interrogation by the Kempeitai during the occupation.
The British resumed control of Hong Kong during August 1945. After the Japanese were rounded up and moved into camps, one of the first tasks was to identify any former Kempeitai, and hold them for trial.
The War Crimes Trials lasted from March 1946 til March 1948, and tried 123 Japanese. Of those, 22 were sentenced to death, 14 were acquitted, and the remainder given prison sentences. Among the 22 were Noma and Kanazawa, the two commanders of the Hong Kong Kempeitai.
Suzannah Linton, currently teaching law at the University of Hong Kong, is compiling an online archive of documents related to these trials. She plans to put her research online by the end of this year, and make it publicly available. (Though the original case notes, sourced from Britain's National Archive, will only be viewable from a computer on one of Hong Kong's universities' computer networks.)
Best to move on?
Why bring these crimes out into the light again? Especially today, with nationalist feelings on both the Chinese and Japanese sides running high over the Diaoyu islands. Isn't there a risk that stories like these will fuel those passions, and make it even harder to find a peaceful solution?
I'd hope that people reading about these crimes will see them as a result of war, not of any one country. That "To fight in a war is terrible - you see terrible things, you experience terrible things, you do terrible things."
Can you help?
Here's more detail on the type of information Suzannah is looking for:
She is particularly interested in documents from those who directly participated, i.e. judges, prosecutors, defence, accused and witnesses. Even better, if such persons are still alive, would be to be able to interview them. Observer notes, for example, by media who attended, would also be greatly appreciated. Please contact Associate Professor Linton at email@example.com
Tony Banham's books cover several aspects of this time in detail:
- 'Not the slightest chance' covers the fighting, including the massacres that took place.
- 'We shall suffer there' looks at the Hong Kong POW's experience, from capture through to liberation.
- 'The sinking of the Lisbon Maru' focuses on that incident.
For a broader view of this time, including events leading up to the war, the experiences of the Hong Kong population during occupation, and the effects post-war, Philip Snow's 'The Fall of Hong Kong' is a good read.
The war crimes were covered in detail in the local newspapers of the time. You can read them online.
Suzannah's research has been reported in several of the local newspapers. if you have access to the SCMP website, they ran an article on 13th September. They also have a simplified version on their 'Young Post' website, which is open to the public.