75 years ago, the Japanese ravaged Hong Kong during World War II. For three years and eight months, from December 1941 to August 1945, the Imperial Army occupied the city and ruled with martial law, upending lives and destroying over a quarter of the city’s dwellings.

HKU General view from the Vice Chancellor’s Lodge to West. Photo: Public Records Office, Government Records Service.

Hong Kong’s population dropped drastically, from 1.6 million to 600,000. Meanwhile, the city’s oldest university, the University of Hong Kong, was left in desperate need of reconstruction.

HKU Main University Building – showing damage to roof of Great Hall. Photo: Public Records Office, Government Records Service.

Photos from the Public Records Office from November 1945 show the extent of the war’s destruction, and of a world long gone.

HKU Main Building Quadrangle. Photo: Public Records Office, Government Records Service.

Back then, the university had four faculties — Arts, Engineering, Medicine and Science — and three student hostels — May Hall, Eliot Hall and Lugard Hall.

HKU Interior of Great Hall – half right view. Photo: Public Records Office, Government Records Service.
HKU Interior of Great Hall – Central view. Photo: Public Records Office, Government Records Service.
Fung Ping Shan Library. Photo: Public Records Office, Government Records Service.
HKU Fung Ping Shan Library Photo: Public Records Office, Government Records Service.
HKU General University Library Photo: Public Records Office, Government Records Service.
HKU Students’ Hostels from the East – giving a general view of the exterior of the three hostels (May Hall, Elliot Hall and Lugard Hall). Photo: Public Records Office, Government Records Service.
HKu May Hall – showing ground floor with demolished staircase. Photo: Public Records Office, Government Records Service.
School of Engineering – Ho-Tung Engineering Workshop. Photo: Public Records Office, Government Records Service.
School of Engineering – interior of Peel Laboratory. Photo: Public Records Office, Government Records Service.
HKu School of Pathology and Tropical Medicine Photo: Public Records Office, Government Records Service.
Interior view of Physiology Laboratory. Photo: Public Records Office, Government Records Service.
HKU General view of University site from the roof of the Northcote Science Block. Photo: Public Records Office, Government Records Service.
HKU Northcote Science Block – Herbarium on roof. Photo: Public Records Office, Government Records Service.
HKU Vice Chancellor’s Residence Photo: Public Records Office, Government Records Service.
HKU Vice Chancellor’s Residence – Dining Room Photo: Public Records Office, Government Records Service.
HKU Student’s Union Photo: Public Records Office, Government Records Service.

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Hong Kong Free Press is a new, non-profit, English-language news source seeking to unite critical voices on local and national affairs. Free of charge and completely independent, HKFP arrives amid rising concerns over declining press freedom in Hong Kong and during an important time in the city’s constitutional development.