Britain’s consulate general in Hong Kong said Wednesday it had no comment on a recent speech by a former senior Beijing official in which he criticized the wartime colonial governor for “surrendering to Japan”.
“We are unable to comment on this,” a spokesperson for the British mission, told EJ Insight by e-mail.
On Friday, Chen Zuo’er, a former deputy director of the State Council’s Hong Kong and Macau Affairs Office, said former Hong Kong governor Mark Aitchison Young was ultimately responsible for the fall of Hong Kong to the Japanese.
“The British army lost Kowloon and the New Territories in only 16 days. Governor Mark Aitchison Young hid on Hong Kong Island because he was afraid to die,” Chen said.
Chen tied Young’s conduct to recent efforts by Britain to hold China accountable for its obligations under the Sino-British Joint Declaration, the basis of the former colony’s return to Chinese sovereignty.
He accused British politicians of hypocrisy in judging China given Britain’s wartime history in Hong Kong, according to pro-Beijing newspaper Ta Kung Pao.
“How then could the British claim they have the right to monitor Hong Kong?” Chen said.
Chen said Britain completed its historic mission under the handover treaty after Hong Kong returned to China on July 1, 1997, although the agreement retains its “important meaning and vitality”.
Last month, Beijing barred a group of British lawmakers from entering Hong Kong on a fact-finding mission relating to the Sino-British Joint Declaration.
The planned visit coincided with a democracy street protest that went on for more than two months before it fizzled into a police clearing operation on Monday.
The British claimed that the visit was out of “responsibility and justice” to scrutinize how the treaty has been implemented.
On Wednesday, Constitutional and Mainland Affairs Secretary Raymond Tam became the first Hong Kong official to adopt Chen’s line on the treaty.
However, online news website post852.com said it is debatable whether Young’s conduct was tantamount to surrender.
Given that Young had far less resources than the Japanese to defend Hong Kong — there were fewer than 14,000 British and Allied soldiers in Hong Kong at the time — it would have been pointless to continue fighting at the cost of more lives, it said.
In fact, Mao Zedong, the founder of the People’s Republic of China, benefited from the Japanese aggression because it gave him an opening to attack the Kuomintang, post852.com said.
Young was initially held in the Peninsula Hotel and subsequently incarcerated in a prisoner of war (POW) camp in Stanley on the southern shores of Hong Kong Island.
Shortly thereafter, he was transferred to a series of POW camps in Shanghai, Taiwan, and Japan, then to a camp near the Chinese-Mongolian border.
He is said to have suffered inhumane treatment at the hands of his captors for three years and eight months.
After the war, Young was restored to his position as Hong Kong governor.
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