A cenotaph in Tai Po’s Wu Kau Tang village has been named a national monument by China’s cabinet, ahead of the 70th anniversary of Japan’s surrender in the Second World War.

The Monument for Martyrs Against Japanese Militarism is the only location in Hong Kong to feature on the State Council’s list of historical sites, expanded on Monday from 80 to 180.

Wu Kau Tang monument. Photo: HKFP.

Wu Kau Tang was the base of the Hong Kong Independent Battalion of the East River Column, a guerilla force that harried Hong Kong’s occupiers in the New Territories and helped Allied airmen and prisoners of war escape to freedom.

The East River Column was established under the Chinese Communist Party in 1940. Although their heroics were somewhat overlooked after the restoration of British rule, the group has disproportionately enjoyed the spotlight since Hong Kong’s 1997 handover.

No sites associated with the Battle of Hong Kong nor other resistance groups such as the British Army Aid Group have been recognized by the central government. Earlier this month, Chief Executive Leung Chun-ying snubbed a memorial for local veterans on the same weekend he spoke at a PLA training camp.

Excerpt from the State Council’s announcement of 100 new WWII sites. Photo: State Council of the People’s Republic of China.

Erected 70 years ago in the wake of the colony’s liberation, the monument was restored and moved to the centre of the village in 2010. In its directive announcing the new additions to the nation’s WWII memorial sites, the State Council calls for “unrelenting struggle to realise the Chinese Dream.”

A grand military parade in Beijing is set to mark the WWII anniversary on September 3.

Ryan Ho Kilpatrick

Ryan Ho Kilpatrick is an award-winning journalist and scholar from Hong Kong who has reported on the city’s politics, protests, and policing for The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, TIME, The Guardian, The Independent, and others