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Monday, November 10, 1997 Published at 00:15 GMT


Hong Kong service marks break from tradition

Remembering Hong Kong's war dead

War veterans in Hong Kong have staged a Remembrance Day service to commemorate Hong Kong's war dead.

It was the first Remembrance Day since Hong Kong's handover from British to Chinese rule and the political changes brought a number of changes the service.

[ image: Boy scouts replaced British soldiers]
Boy scouts replaced British soldiers
Hong Kong's new leadership stayed away. But a representative of the chief executive laid a white wreath at the memorial to those killed in war.

Past remembrance ceremonies had been dominated by British military ritual. This year it was left to Hong Kong's police band to provide the music for the annual memorial service.

China's People's Liberation Army declined the invitation to take part.

[ image: White flowers, not traditional poppies]
White flowers, not traditional poppies
Instead of soldiers, boy scouts marked the four corners of the Cenotaph, Britain's traditional memorial to its war dead.

There were other differences this year too. In the past British Governors were usually a central figure at the service.

In contrast, Hong Kong's new Chief Executive, Tung Chee-hwa, decided not to attend. His representative did lay an official wreath but it was a Chinese arrangement of fresh white flowers, not the traditional poppies.

Many of these departures are being seen as a deliberate decision by the new authorities to distance themselves from the traditions of Hong Kong's colonial past.

[ image: War veterans want traditions preserved]
War veterans want traditions preserved
The new government has already announced plans to start, from next year, an official ceremony of its own to commemorate Hong Kong's war dead.

This will coincide with an existing Chinese festival and will not be held at the Cenotaph.

Government officials say it will be more in tune with the local community.

But Hong Kong's Chinese war veterans, who fought in the British army, say they are determined to preserve the traditions of the Remembrance Day service in years to come.

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