Japan's Wartime Savagery? Better to Forget It
Under the Japanese occupation in World War II, Hong Kong's domed Legislative Council building was a torture center. But today hardly anyone seems to remember.
From the graceful dome of the Legislative Council building to the gaudy entertainment district of Wan Chai to the touristy warren of small shops in Stanley, Hong Kong seems as peaceful and prosperous a city as any in Asia.
Muknam Chan/Getty Images, for The New York Times
Cai Song-ying, now 80, was a Communist partisan who fought against the Japanese.
Yet 60 years ago, this city suffered some of the worst ravages of World War II. The Legislative Council building was a torture center run by the Japanese secret police. Military-run brothels were set up in Wan Chai after numerous rapes of local civilians by Japanese soldiers. And Stanley held an internment camp for allied civilians, with those who violated the rules risking execution on a nearby beach.
What is remarkable is that despite all the wartime horrors - which cut the city's population to 600,000 from 1.6 million through starvation, killings and flight to better-fed communities - the war is little remembered here. The 60th anniversary on Monday of the Japanese surrender announcement was observed only by a few small gatherings: a talk by a war veteran at a local museum; a protest on Sunday against Japanese war crimes that drew 400 people by the organizers' count and only 200 according to the police.
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