Hong Kong Chinese War Memorial, Botanical Gardens, Hong Kong

This monument was originally called The Hong Kong Memorial and conceived by the Imperial War Graves Commission (IWGC) to commemorate the over 900 Chinese who had lost their lives at sea with the British Merchant Navy and auxiliary formations during World War I. It was, however, understood that the memorial also commemorated the many casualties the Chinese Labour Corps had suffered while serving in the European theatre of war. Modelled on a similar archway that had previously been erected by the IWGC in its Chinese war cemetery at Noyelles-sur-Mer in France and which had received the endorsement of the Chinese ambassador to London, the Hong Kong Memorial came to stand at the entrance to the colony’s centrally-located and popular Botanic Gardens where it was unveiled by Governor Cecil Clementi on 6 May 1928. It was soon also known as the Hong Kong Chinese War Memorial. The remembrance ceremony of Armistice Day (later renamed Remembrance Day) was held each November at both the Chinese War Memorial and then at the Hong Kong Cenotaph in Statue Square, joining the two under a shared performative umbrella.

After World War II, the Chinese War Memorial received new inscriptions by the IWGC that, after a comprise was struck with the Chinese council members of Hong Kong, rededicated it “IN THE MEMORY OF THE CHINESE WHO DIED LOYAL TO THE ALLIED CAUSE IN THE WARS OF 1914-1918 AND 1939-1945.” In the eyes of the colony’s Chinese community leaders, the monument thus also commemorated especially the (para-)military and civilian victims of Chinese heritage who had lost their lives in Hong Kong during the Pacific War. The annual service of Remembrance Day was resurrected at the memorial after World War II and continued until 1981, when the ceremony was moved in its entirety to the Hong Kong Cenotaph, which in turn received additional Chinese inscriptions.

Today, the Chinese War Memorial serves no function in the official calendar of remembrance but remains as a popular photo opportunity at the entrance to the Botanical and Zoological Gardens. Its inscriptions along with its still visible signs of combat, in the form of bullet holes and shrapnel damage, remind the observant onlooker of the mark that especially the Second World War left on Hong Kong and its Chinese community. 

Source: Daniel Schumacher

Related Web-links

  1. http://www.lcsd.gov.hk/en/parks/hkzbg/index.html