Wong Shiu Pun (Preston Wong)

Wong Shiu Pun was born on June 21, 1890. He graduated from Queen’s College and eventually became Vice Principal of St. Paul’s College, one of the world’s earliest Anglo-Chinese schools.1 He first worked there as a teacher in 1912, returned in 1922 after time spent in the UK, and subsequently acted as College Bursar and Warden of the College Hostel.2 His wife, Phyllis Grace Wong,3 a Chinese Australian,4 was school secretary until her retirement.5 The couple had at least one child, a daughter, Betty.6
Those three years away were spent at Cambridge, engaging in further studies in psychology and theology. This was an enterprising thing to do: the British universities weren’t exactly bursting with East Asian students in the early 1920s. While there, he also obtained a BA from the Intercollegiate University of Chicago.7
A picture of him in England c.1920 can be seen here:

It looks like a gathering of Scouts – Mr Wong took part in movement activities in the UK, and in 1922 he founded the 10th Hong Kong Troop based in St. Paul’s College.
Historian (and friend of Mr Wong’s family) Anne Ozorio tells us something I’ve not seen in any other source about the courageous Chinese agents who worked with the British Army Aid Group during the Japanese occupation:

That resistance group was not organised from outside HK but within HK before the war and was based in the Auxiliary Police, Scouts and Chinese Christian circles. When David Lo(u)ie the leader was arrested one man managed to smuggle away the police records so the Japanese could not track them down.8

Wong Shiu Pun was both a Christian and a Scout, and one source states he was also a Police Reservist. It looks like these courageous people went ahead in accordance with pre-war plans, and when most of them were captured they all stuck to an agreed story and managed to convince the Japanese the group had been improvised (largely by T’so Tsun-on9 who had escaped from Hong Kong) in the spring of 1942. This no doubt protected members who were still free and might have helped a few agents avoid the death sentence.10
Interestingly Scout associations in colonial settings typically sided with the anti-imperialist forces – in Eire, for example, they took part in the 1916 Easter Rising against British rule; Hong Kong scouting was unique in that its members worked unambiguously with the British.11 The reason is obvious: the Japanese were the enemy of China as well as of the Empire, and most Scouts by 1941 were ethnically Chinese, and therefore part of a population which knew better than to believe the Japanese claim to be liberating Asia from ‘white’ imperialism. The historian of Hong Kong Scouting, Paul Kua, has even suggested that the growth in Scout numbers in the late 1930s and early 1940s was specifically part of the Colony’s preparation for war.12
Sadly I have few details of Mr Wong’s resistance activities – I would be grateful to learn about them from anyone who knows more. A British Army Aid Group document of April 1943 has this to say:

“PREST” now PRESS. This is S.P. Wong (J.P.) uncle of FIG NO. 46 who used to help 46 in his work. When his nephew died S. P. WONG apparently sent a letter stating that he would continue to help through 19 and gave his nom-de-plume.
This message together with some maps were unfortunately lost when 48, 77 etc. were killed
.13

Laurence Tsui, son of BAAG agent Paul Tsui, who has worked extensively with the Ride Papers, tells us that No. 46 was William Wong Kwong-sheung of the BAAG’s ‘B’ Group. William Wong was one of the first agents to be arrested and his family later claimed that his death, while on the way to Waichow after his release, was due to the torture he’d experienced in prison.14 When Mr Wong offered to continue his work, he can have not the slightest doubt as to the risk he was running.
No. 19, who seems to have been the agent Mr. Wong worked most closely with after the death of his nephew, was Joseph Tsang Yiu-sang, who was involved in contacts with the British POW Camps in Kowloon15 and with plans to free Captain Ansari from Ma Tau-chung Camp.16
He was probably arrested soon after the raid on the French Hospital of May 2, 1943 – a note in the diary of former SCMP editor Henry Ching, undated but probably from the middle of May, records his arrest.17 He might have been one of the four Chinese people tried in a group of 15 prisoners on the afternoon of October 19;18 the only thing that can be said for certain for certain is that he wasn’t tried with the larger group that morning, as after the liberation the BAAG captured a summary of that trial and there are no details of him in it. Whenever his trial, he was sentenced to death and sent back to a solitary cell in Stanley Prison to await execution. During this time he was sent food parcels from outside the prison, and shared them with others less fortunate.19 In his diary entry for October 15 Henry Ching records that Mr Wong’s relatives were told not to send parcels any more as he was already dead. The same thing happened to the wife of Chester Bennett, who was to be executed alongside him two weeks later, and it seems that the guards were simply engaging in additional cruelty.
At about 2 pm on October 29, 32 condemned men and one woman were taken out of solitary confinement and assembled inside Stanley Prison. They were refused a visit from a priest, but were allowed five minutes together to compose themselves. Captain Mateen Ansari said a few words of encouragement20 and then Mr Wong was asked to say prayers. The prisoners, bound together in threes, were loaded into a van for the short drive to Stanley Beach. Once there they were lined up in single file, told to sit down, and blindfolded by the guards. They came forward in groups of three to be beheaded.

Mr Wong was the last person to be executed, so he was able to give at least some comfort to the others. He carried on praying to the end, forgiving his killers.23 When his turn finally came, he was struck by an assistant executioner named Sahara, who had to use his bayonet to complete the task.24
Today this brave man is remembered through the ‘Wong Shiu Pun Prize for Religious Education’ and there’s a similar ‘Community Service’ award in the name of his wife.25 Earlier this year the 10th Hong Kong Scout Group held a memorial service in Stanley Cemetery to mark the seventieth anniversary of his death.

1http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/St._Paul%27s_College,_Hong_Kong

2https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10152902597363539&set=a.10152902596468539.1073741831.162053538538&type=1&theater

3http://www.roll-of-honour.org.uk/Cemeteries/Stanley_Military_Cemetery/html/w.htm

4http://gwulo.com/node/15358

5https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10152902597363539&set=a.10152902596468539.1073741831.162053538538&type=1&theater

6http://gwulo.com/node/15358

7https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10152902597363539&set=a.10152902596468539.1073741831.162053538538&type=1&theater

8https://www.facebook.com/groups/308617469269780/

9https://brianedgar.wordpress.com/2013/07/25/tso-tsun-on/

10The Captured Enemy Document in the Ride Papers, a summary of the morning trial of October 19, 1943 (kindly sent to me by Elizabeth Ride), certainly gives the impression that all of the Reserve Police on trial claimed to have come together in the spring of 1942 and done very little until the end of that year. I’ll discuss this issue in more detail in a future post.

11Paul Kua, Scouting in Hong Kong 1910-2010, 2011, 205.

12Kua, 2011, 204.

13http://gwulo.com/node/15716

14http://gwulo.com/node/15716

15http://gwulo.com/node/15716

16https://brianedgar.wordpress.com/2013/11/04/captain-mateen-ahmed-ansari/

17http://gwulo.com/node/15322

18George Wright-Nooth, Prisoner of the Turnip Heads, 1994, 180.

19Wright-Nooth, 1994, 179.

20https://brianedgar.wordpress.com/2013/11/04/captain-mateen-ahmed-ansari/

21https://www.facebook.com/groups/308617469269780/

22Wright-Nooth, 1994, 187.

23http://classical-iconoclast.blogspot.co.uk/2010/08/masaki-kobayashi-human-condition.html

24Wright-Nooth, 1994, 187.

25https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=10152902597363539&set=a.10152902596468539.1073741831.162053538538&type=1&theater

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