Japanese occupation of Hong Kong

Japanese occupation of Hong Kong from1941~1945: Why the number of population declined


Hong Kong has a great history under the Japanese occupation that took place from 25 December 1941 to August 15, 1945, also referred to “three years and eight months”. The history of the Japanese occupation in HK raises much interest, especially, because it is rarely mentioned in many research studies. During the three years and eight months period, Hong Kong was transformed economically, culturally, socially and politically by the Japanese occupiers. The influence of the Japanese occupiers in Hong Kong introduced pros and cons to Hong Kong. However, this group noted that the negative effects of Imperial Japanese occupation of Hong Kong overweighed the positives sides. This group conducted research on various online databases to establish the main objectives of Japan taking over Hong Kong. The group found out how Japan implemented their plans, why they were doing so and the outcomes of their objectives in Hong Kong. These outcomes of the study were divided into three parts: the economy, people’s livelihood, and culture and crimes for clarity. At the end of this paper, the group presents a conclusion of the main findings of the effects of Japanese occupation in HK.

Background of Japan Occupation in Hong Kong

Earlier, in the 1930s, Japan developed increased aggression towards other countries including key cities of China. Hong Kong was a major problem for Japan considering that it was an invaluable port that facilitated the transfer of resources to the Chinese army at the time of war against Japan. Japan had uncertainties that Britain would convert Hong Kong port into a marine headquarters, an action that would affect their intended invasion in Hong Kong. Later on 25th December 1941, Japan invaded Hong Kong city, forcing them to surrender. During this occupation in Hong Kong, the people of Hong Kong were subjected to utmost suffering, including cultural and financial exploitation, torture, mass killings/murder and rape. Japan, later, on 15th August 1945 surrendered to the Allied Powers after suffering an atomic bomb that destroyed Japan immeasurably, leaving Britain in control of Hong Kong.

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Crimes and culture

The Japans invasion in Hong Kong was characterized by crimes and cultural exploitations. As much as the Japanese invaded Hong Kong physically, they strived to influence the mindset and the thinking process of the people of Hong Kong through the use of administrative powers. They introduced numerous strategies of influencing the Hong Kong people and have them under their control. They used force, military power, and command to ensure that the people of Hong Kong are subdued and without a voice.

The Japanese introduced propaganda, which entailed controlling the mainstream media. Radio stations were taken over by the Japanese in an attempt to spread the Japanese language. In this regard, the Japanese introduced the Japanese language in several radio programs and other media outlets, such as newspapers. In particular, the Hong Kong News, a newspaper that had folded was reintroduced into the market in January 1942 to help in the Japanese occupation. It hired a Japanese news editor, Ogura, E. G. and several Chinese and Portuguese staff writers. These staff writers had worked previously for other newspaper outlets in Hong Kong, such as South China and Morning Post. However, in their new positions in the Hong Kong News, they were responsible for spreading the Japanese propaganda for the interests of the Japanese administration. The Japanese administration continued to influence media outlets to spread the Japanese culture and language, and the outlets that did not abide by this rule were forced out of the business. For example, about 5 Chinese newspapers folded in May the same year. Irrespective of being allowed to conduct their businesses, they had no choice than to operate under stringent press suppression by the Japanese. Other local programs and shows continued to be aired on radios. Furthermore, films and cinemas managed to screen Japanese films, for example, "The Battle of the Hong Kong", a film that was produced in Hong Kong at the time when the Japanese administration had taken over the city. The production of this film was characterized by immense discrimination and suppression of the Chinese people, where few cast staffs were Chinese while majorities were Japanese – a strategy that ensured that Japanese culture was dominant.

The Japanese introduced the Japanese language in schools, where every student was expected to learn the language and understand it without any exception through a policy referred to as “Japanization”. Students were not allowed to use English or Chinese within or outside the school compound. Anyone who breached this rule was punished. The Japanese customs, spiritual values, norms and traditions were also introduced in schools where the students were forced to learn in a bid to eradicate the Chinese culture. Students were introduced to the Japanese history through the introduction of Japanese history classes, where they read famous history stories, such as "Mori Motonari's” and the Xufu’s “Voyage to Japan”.

Teachers were also expected to learn Japanese and teach Japanese to the students, which was difficult considering that a majority of the teachers did not have Japanese background or experience. Teachers sometimes had to make individual preparations and studies of the Japanese language before students came for classes, which added to the challenges the experienced. The teachers were enrolled in Teachers’ Training Course that was conducted by the Japanese military and teachers who failed this course were forced to repeat until they were fit.

Furthermore, the Japanese, in an effort to help spread the learning and use of Japanese language, built private schools, where teaching and learning of Japanese language were set compulsory for every student. The main objective of forcing the students and teachers to learn the Japanese customs and language was to build a pro-Japanese Chinese community that would help the Japanese in the occupation of Hong Kong.

The cultural influence of the Japanese language and cultural practices did not bring about positive outcomes to Hong Kong. As a result of the influence and forceful requirement of students and teachers to learn the enemy’s language, many schools, both primary and secondary were destroyed as few students could cope with the new stringent rules. In this regard, about two-thirds of the student learners could not go to school as a result of the socio-cultural instability. School books and furniture including school buildings were destroyed by warfare and military actions. Other special schools, such as schools for the people with disabilities were suspended.

Besides the Japanese made immense efforts to alter the names of the streets and buildings to have the Japanese culture spread all over the city, while the cultural names of the people of Hong Kong died away. Road signs and buildings named in Chinese and English were replaced with Japanese phrases and wordings. On April 1942, the names of shops and restaurant were altered to Japanese. For instance, a road, such as the Queen's Road Central was converted to Meiji-Dori and Des Voeux Road was named Showa-Dori. Hotels, such as Gloucester was converted to Matsubara whereas the Peninsula Hotel was converted to Matsumoto. Such names were assigned to structures and streets to symbolize the Japanese spiritual beliefs, customs, and values.

Furthermore, the people of Hong Kong were forced to learn and recall the Japanese cultures through taking part in Japanese cultural celebrations and anniversaries. For example, the “Yasukuri” also referred to the “Shrine” cultural event, for commemorating the dead, was conducted in Hong Kong by the Japanese administrators. Besides, the Japanese Empire Day that was celebrated on 11th February 1943 was a symbolical and monumental moment that coerced the Chinese people of Hong Kong to praise and obey the “Emperor Jimmu”.

The Japanese committed numerous inhuman crimes and atrocities, such as torturing the men, women, and children, including murdering and massacring innocent people. On December 1941 a Japanese military troupe of soldiers attacked and killed medical staff belonging to Red Cross at Wong Nai Chung Gap. The killing of these staff members was unfortunate bearing in mind that they had arm bands and identification documents showing that they worked for Red Cross. Most of the health workers were tortured and killed while few managed to escape. Besides, students and workers were massacred at St. Stephen's College whereas scores of villages was captured, tortured, burned and killed at Mui Wo.

In the year 1943, cannibalism was common in Hong Kong. There were many strewn bodies on the streets that appeared lean and abandoned. However, most of these bodies had thigh flesh cut off. It was also alleged according to Ming, that some hotels and restaurants prepared human meat, including making burns from human flesh.

Besides, the Japanese created comfort areas in Lockhart Road where they forced the Chinese women into prostitution. In the year 1941, approximately, 10000 young girls and women were raped, which was roughly at the time when the Japanese managed to subdue the people of Hong Kong into surrendering to their administration. In this regard, the military tropes and police raped many Chinese women via house searching. Many women were abducted, tortured, raped and killed in the forests.

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