Pro-Beijing newspaper Ta Kung Pao has accused a group of volunteers, who dressed up as World War II soldiers, of “forming an army for Hong Kong independence.” But a co-founder of the group has hit back, saying he does not advocate independence for the city.

The paper carried reports on its front pages on Thursday saying that Watershed Hong Kong, which organised a “living monument” reenactment wearing uniforms of the Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corp, was “fabricating history for the cause of Hong Kong independence.”

Last year marked the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Hong Kong. The Japanese invasion lasted for 18 days before allied forces surrendered on Christmas day, 1941. The group arranged the dressed up volunteers and guides at major spots of the city to explain the war’s history.

Ta Kung Pao, 5 January 2017. Photo: HKFP.

“The so-called history of the anti-invasion battle was not truthful, a guide who explained [the event] to the the public said the Hong Kong government did not respect history, and displayed secession thoughts of hatred towards mainland China and hostility towards the central government,” it read.

The report also accused one of the group’s guides of “belittling” the Dongjiang Column – a group of Chinese forces which the group said were only a guerrilla team attacking lone Japanese soldiers, as opposed to conducting frontal assaults. The group said the Column was not mentioned in British or Japanese official files, according to the report.

HKFP Lens: History fans portray WWII Defence Corps soldiers to mark 75 years since Battle of Hong Kong

Kwong Chi-man, an assistant professor at Baptist University, told the paper that the Column was indeed mentioned in official files related to intelligence work, and that they had engaged in front line battles with Japanese forces, though the interactions were relatively minor.

Photo: Watershed Hong Kong.

The newspaper also claimed on Thursday that the founders of Watershed Hong Kong were all former University of Hong Kong students or editors of the university’s student magazine Undergrad, who advocated independence for the territory.

The paper’s editorial also slammed the independence movement, saying that more resources must be deployed to suppress it.

See also: The Fall of Hong Kong: 75 years since Japan took the city

In response, Taurus Yip, a co-founder of the group, said: “I do not advocate Hong Kong independence and have never called for that.”

“By reviewing our history, Watershed Hong Kong hopes to create a foundation to build the awareness of citizenship for the betterment of Hong Kong. We focus on history promotion and do not advocate any political ideologies.”

An information card given by Watershed Hong Kong. Photo: Watershed Hong Kong.

Yip said he was the only one left of the original co-founders, as another co-founder and other volunteers had left by November 2015 “due to different visions and personal matters.”

“Various people have participated in Watershed Hong Kong at various junctures, all are volunteers,” he said.

On the role of other forces during the battle, Yip said that the guides at their event mentioned that “all defence units, including Hong Kong Volunteer Defence Corp, fought in the Battle of Hong Kong, 1941” and information cards were given to the audience for them to have a clear general understanding.

Kris Cheng

Kris Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist with an interest in local politics. His work has been featured in Washington Post, Public Radio International, Hong Kong Economic Times and others. He has a BSSc in Sociology from the Chinese University of Hong Kong. Kris is HKFP's Editorial Director.