Canadian Embassy Weibo post sparks online homage to HK veterans

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While Beijing flexes its military muscle in a huge WW2 victory parade, a Weibo tweet by the Canadian Embassy has sparked a wave of tribute to the 1,975 Canadian veterans of the Battle of Hong Kong.

“In commemorating the end of WWII, let us not forget the 1,975 Canadian soldiers who bravely fought to defend Hong Kong,” said a tweet released by the Canadian Embassy in Beijing yesterday. The tweet included an image of Sergeant Major John Robert Osborn’s statue in Victoria Park, Hong Kong, as well as a link to his page on The Canadian Encyclopedia.

Osborn was a Canadian soldier who fought in the Battle of Hong Kong and was killed on 19 December, 1941, resulting in him being the first in the Canadian army to be awarded the Victoria Cross in WWII.

The Weibo tweet attracted considerable attention from Mainland users. As of Friday afternoon, the tweet has accumulated over 958,000 views, 5,224 likes, 664 retweets, and 414 comments, many of which express gratitude and praise for the Canadians who fought to defend Hong Kong.

One Weibo user’s popular reply simply said, “Thank you, Canada.”

Some comments also accused Canada for “taking directions from America” and not sending a representative to the “anti-fascist victory commemoration” military parade in Beijing.

Other popular comments pointed out the change in tone of WWII commemorations in the city: “Hong Kong used to have grand memorials commemorating Canadian soldiers who fought against the Japanese every year. However, this year they mainly focused on commemorating the Communist-led Hong Kong guerilla troops. How strange!”

A significant number of popular comments also expressed thanks to another Canadian who played a major role in China during the war – Norman Bethune. A graduate of McGill University and a member of the Communist Party of Canada, Bethune is widely known in China for providing medical services to villagers and wounded soldiers in rural areas while working with Mao Zedong during the war. After his death from blood poisoning in 1939, he became a legendary martyr in Chinese propaganda thanks to Mao’s famous eulogy to him, which is still assigned as required reading in elementary schools across China today.