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Nancy Siew

This is submitted by Nancy Siew of the District Office in Mississauga. It is a true story about her uncle who died at the hands of the Japanese during the Second World War. She has changed the names and dates to protect the identities of the characters.

December 1, 1941: Sunny.

It is very unsettling to hear about the Japanese aggression in the Pacific. We, the Chinese in the Dutch East Indies, are worried. Since July of 1937, The Imperial Army butchered civilians by the tens of thousands in China. Some of our young men have actually gone to China to help fight the terrible war, but we are losing. Is there a God?

We can do little for our family and friends in China except to raise money for them. We send food and clothing. We inform our people about the war in our papers and talk about it a lot. That amounts to nothing when we see the plight of the orphaned, the wounded, the maimed and the homeless. We feel guilty that we are enjoying a good life here in this beautiful country while our country folks are suffering in hell back in China.

December 11, 1941: Rainy.

Too shocked to write in the last few days. I still cannot believe that the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbour in Hawaii. The American casualty was high. Finally, they have decided to declare war on the Japanese. Why didn't they join the war efforts earlier?

August 18, 1942: Sunny and Hot

The children are very upset, especially Hok Lai. He is very angry that the Japanese are running amok throughout Asia – they pillage, rape and slaughter and nobody seems to be able to stop them. My nephew told us the other day, that his classmates got a kick in the butt because they did not bow low enough to the Japanese sentry. Another girl in the school got a slap because the Japanese soldier did not like her look. The Army came and carted away barrels of merchandise from one of our stores because that was our share of contribution to the Imperial Army. Life is so disruptive since the Japanese occupied our land.

December 20, 1942: Sunny and Hot

The Japanese together with their Chinese followers, appealed to the people to cooperate with the invaders. The Japanese claimed that if we would obey them, we would be joining a prosperous Pan-Asian Empire under their rule. Can you trust a hungry lion?

December 27, 1942: Cloudy and Humid

My husband told me that a few Chinese men came to his office today. They wanted to solicit his help because he was well-respected in the community. They asked him to support their organization which promoted harmony among the Imperial Army and the local residents. They wanted him to take a leading role in showing good will to the Japanese. How can there be harmony when people are arrested, tortured and murdered for no reason? Those Chinese men are shameless in assisting the aggressors in their reign of terror. They are villains with no backbone!

December 30, 1942: Windy

The Imperial Army brutalize people whom they suspect to be a threat to them. The Chinese, especially young men, are often taken for interrogation without reason. The son of my uncle's neighbour was taken for interrogation because the Japanese thought he was plotting against them. They took him to the Military Police Headquarters and gave him the infamous water torture. They hung him up-side-down and punched him. They beat the sole of his feet with a whip. After torturing him for three weeks, they let him out. Unfortunately, he died today.

January 2, 1943: Sunny

There is no joy despite the New Year. People just go about their everyday life quietly. Somber is the mood in our land.

March 21, 1943: Rainy

Spring has arrived but there is no celebration. People are just too afraid to be noticed. Hok Lai seems to be a little strange these days. He is very quiet. He goes out often at night and appears to be very secretive about something. I asked his wife, Yue Wah, but she could not give me an answer.

July 30, 1943: Sunny and Hot

Hok Lai announced to us that his wife was expecting their first child. How lovely! They are a wonderful couple. He was top of his engineering class and so kind and caring! He is so handsome too (I am not one biased mother because he is my step-son). Truly, he will contribute significantly to society. His wife is not just another pretty face; she is gentle and loving. She comes from an excellent family too. I can't wait to hold their baby in my arms!

September 30, 1943: Stormy

I could not bring myself to writing anything after what happened ten day ago. In the middle of the night, the Imperial Army banged on our front gate. The officer had an interpreter with him – none other than Mr. Foo, one of the fellows who had asked my husband to support his so-called Asian Prosperity Association. He told us that the house had been surrounded and that they had come for Hok Lai.

They searched every nook and cranny. In the secret compartment, they found Hok Lai. I was totally beside myself. While they were taking him out, I held on to the leg of the Japanese officer and begged him to take me instead. He kicked me in my side with his heavy boot and I passed out.

The next day, I learned that the Imperial Army had arrested more than a thousand people that day. They were imprisoned without trial. The arrests were carried out as a deterrent against conspiracy. We were told not to oppose our enemy but to cooperate with them.

Every day, Yue Wah and a group of us went to the prison where Hok Lai was held. We asked to see him but were refused. We were either kicked out or physically thrown out again and again.

November 22, 1943: Sunny

An entrusted friend has found an Indonesian native who works as a kitchen help in the prison. The natives are not under the same amount of scrutiny as the Chinese because the Japanese consider us to be subversive. With a bit of monetary encouragement, this man will look into Hok Lai's situation in jail and report back to us. I am worried sick, but I have to be brave for my husband's sake.

November 25, 1943: Sunny

Our friends came with some news about life inside the prison. The Japanese tortured their prisoners for entertainment. They randomly picked on people to interrogate. The Imperial Army punished their prisoners with a sadistic appetite. They seemed to enjoy this. To them, it was like a game: the water inquisition, the death by tropical sun and electric shocks were only some of their brutal methods. Hok Lai had been roughed up a few times but he seemed to be in good spirits. Our informer could not do very much more. At least, we know our loved one is still alive!

December 1, 1943: Rainy

Our friend rushed into our home. He was as white as a ghost. His Indonesian contact told him Hok Lai and other young men had been shipped out by truck last night. They were handcuffed and fettered.

December 5th, 1943: Sunny

We got word from our contact that Hok Lai was sent to Malaysia to work in the mines. Shall we ever see him again? Shall we hear from him again?

April 20, 1944: Sunny

Yue Wah gave birth to a beautiful, healthy baby girl. She weighed 3 1/2 k. I wish her father would hear about this good news but we don't even know if he is alive or dead!

August 15, 1945: Sunny

The Japanese surrendered today. How many have died since they began this war of aggression?

September 9, 1945: Rainy

A boatload of former prisoners arrived at the dock this afternoon. When we heard the news, we went to the pier at the crack of dawn. At 3 p.m., the boat came in. One by one the prisoners disembarked – but no Hok Lai. Our hopes were dashed!

September 10, 1945: Sunny

My husband made an inquiry about Hok Lai with the International Red Cross. I hope they can find him.

December 20, 1945: Sunny

My husband received a letter from the Red Cross. Hok Lai was executed by the Japanese soldiers in March 1945 because he was planning an escape with his friends. He was beheaded in public. There was little else they told us.

Knowing how courageous Hok Lai was, I could picture him at his execution – he held his head high like the noblest of martyrs. He was a great admirer of an ancient Chinese General whose motto in life was "Death is inevitable. He who pays the supreme sacrifice for righteousness is a hero indeed..."!

January 1, 1946: Sunny

Our New Year celebration took a different form this year. Instead of the usual gaiety, the Council of Elders had decided to honour those who gave their lives for our society. Hok Lai was recognized as a patriotic hero. He will be remembered by all.

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