From the British surrender on 25 December 1941 to the Japanese surrender on 15 August 1945, Hong Kong underwent the dark age of Japanese occupation for three years and eight months.
After the Japanese forces captured Hong Kong, they plundered Hong Kong’s economic resources and the property of Hong Kong people on a large scale. The Hong Kong Occupied Territory Government (the occupation government) issued a large number of military currency and drained common people’s savings by forcing them to exchange Hong Kong dollars to military currency.
During the Japanese rule, the occupation government implemented food rationing as food shortage was severe in Hong Kong. However, the Japanese abolished rice rationing on 15 April 1944 and only allowed those served the occupation government get the rice. As a result, the price of rice on the black market rocketed. Common people could only eat coarse grains or even bark to survive. During the three years and eight months of Japanese occupation, most Hong Kong people starved. Countless people died of starvation.
The Kempeitai (Japanese military police) often abused Hong Kong people using water torture, burning, electric shocks, beatings, body hanging, kneeling torture, whipping, beheading, etc. The Japanese forces often carried out large-scale raids in the New Territories to eliminate all anti-Japanese guerillas, during which many villagers were arrested and tortured for information about the guerrillas. A multitude of innocent civilians died because of the Japanese atrocities.
A Japanese sentry overlooking the dwellings.
Left: the Hong Kong Occupied Territory Government was formally established on 20 February 1942 and Isogai Rensuke became its first Governor-General; Middle: Tanaka Hisakazu took over the Governor-General’s Office on 1 February 1945; Right: a group photo of Isogai (middle in the front row) and some upper-class Chinese in Hong Kong. During the Japanese occupation, Japan bribed some upper-class Chinese to stabilise its rule.
The Japanese took over important enterprises and assets such as banks after occupying Hong Kong. Left: in December 1941, the British-owned Chartered Bank of India, Australia and China was occupied by the Japanese. A notice which said “Occupied by Imperial Japanese Navy” was posted; Right: the junction of Des Voeux Road Central and Douglas Street in Central during Japanese occupation. Foreign staff members of HSBC are leaving under the Japanese escort.
The Japanese military currency issued in Hong Kong became a tool for looting common people.
During the Japanese occupation, food trading was strictly restricted. Left: a grain purchase ticket issued by the occupation government; Right: a fish sale permit issued by the occupation government.
During the Japanese occupation, the Japanese plundered Hong Kong’s metal products and forestry as these were considered important resources. Left: the bronze statue of Queen Victoria was taken down and shipped off to Japan to be melted down for use; Middle: the bronze statue of Hong Kong Governor Kennedy before it was melted down for use; Right: the five-finger camphor at Lai Chi Wo. The Japanese tried to cut down the tree. It is said that only a “finger” of the tree was cut off because of the protection of villagers. There are four “fingers” remain.
The occupation government implemented Japanisation in Hong Kong. Left: some textbooks in Hong Kong during the Japanese occupation; Right: some of the street names in Hong Kong were changed to Japanese during the Japanese occupation.
During the Japanese occupation, the Kempeitai were known for their cruelty. Left: the headquarters of the Kempeitai during the Japanese occupation; Right: a news report about how the Kempeitai abused Hong Kong people. It was published in a Hong Kong newspaper in 1946.
Elderly people who survived the three years and eight months of Japanese occupation talking about the Japanese atrocities in Hong Kong. They are the witnesses to this history of dark age.
Between 1946 and 1948, Japanese war criminals were tried in the Military Court for the Trial of War Criminals in Hong Kong. 21 people were sentenced to death, including Noma Kennosuke, the Head of the Kempeitai. He was known as the “King of Murderers in Hong Kong”.
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