Sai Kung Martyrs Memorial of the East River Column, New Territories, Hong Kong
The East River Column was a brigade-sized guerrilla formation (numbering up to 5,000 fighters at the height of the war) raised by the Chinese Communist Party who recruited the Column’s members from both Hong Kong, especially from the areas in and around Sai Kung in the New Territories, and from China’s Guangdong Province. As a paramilitary formation, it mainly staged acts of sabotage against the Japanese occupying forces and aided foreign clandestine units, such as the British Army Aid Group, in gathering intelligence and rescuing downed Allied airmen, POWs or war refugees in southern China. The Column’s exploits have received an increased amount of attention since the late 1990s, following Hong Kong’s ‘handover’ to China.
The Sai Kung Martyrs Memorial stands as an example of earlier efforts to memorialise the members of the East River Column who were killed during the Second World War. The memorial was erected in 1986 on the initiative of local Sai Kung district officials who played a major role in lifting the unit from obscurity and writing about its wartime achievements. The unit’s memorialisation in Hong Kong coincided with its exoneration by the Chinese Communist Party on the mainland who, under Mao, had condemned the Columnists as ‘localists’.
The memorial is located along Tai Mong Tsai Road, about six kilometres from Sai Kung. It still serves as the place for unofficial local commemorative events on the 15 August, the anniversary of Emperor Hirohito’s surrender message in 1945.