CHINESE GIRLS THROUGH PERILS TO AUCKLAND SOME 15 years ago two young Chinese girls, Alice Wah Lee and Nancy Wah Lee, accompanied by other members of their family, left New Zealand for China. A few days ago the two sisters completed the return journey under vastly different conditions.
The journey began months ago and has involved travelling by river boat, train, aeroplane and ocean-going steamer.
They were in Hongkong studying at a convent in December, 1941, when the city was attacked. On Monday, December 8, one of the girls was half-way to school when the .first Japanese bombing raid was carried out, the objective of the Japanese on this occasion being the airfield. The attacks came as a surprise, and at first the general feeling was one of bewilderment.
On the following day there was a great scramble to buy foodstuffs and other necessitites, and shops were emptied of their stocks in half an hour. The Japanese then started to bomb the docks and barracks.
The girls, who, owing to the rush on the shops, had been unable to obtain food, were given a sack of rice and some bread by an English soldier prior to the Japanese occupation. The rice was destroyed by a bomb, but they were able to reiain the bread.
Then the land fighting began. The fiat in which they were living was situated in Happy Valley, between the British Army and the Japanese. The flat shook constantly from gun fire and falling bombs. During this time the girls slept fully dressed, their pockets crammed with toast and dry bread. The building was hit, but they miraculously escaped injury, and they went to stay Avith friends. They were in constant danger of death from bullets. "Stinking Horribly" The day Hongkong was taken there was very heavy fire in the morning, but in the afternoon this ceased. They thought the Chinese Army had attacked and the Japanese were retreating. Soldiers'came into sight and in the distance the girls thought they were Chinese, but they proved to be Japs. One of the girls described them as "looking like monkeys and stinking horribly." They had obviously been plundering en route, for all had their pockets bulging with loot. Some had half a dozen wrist watches, practically covering their forearms. Others had numbers of fountain pens clipped in their pockets. Others again carried perfumes and powder, and if they took a fancy to a girl they would shake these over her.
They came into the house and stared at the girls and their friends, and then ordered them outside while they searched the place. The Japanese made them line up in a row and then stood in front of them, training a machine gun on them, but after scaring them ordered them back to the house. When drunk the Japanese would wail that they would lose in the end and the Chinese would win, and they would moan over the thought of losing their wives and homes. The house was visited a second time by Japanese soldiers, but these did no more than look around and ask questions. Nevertheless, the experience was very frightening. Japanese Barbarity They could hear girls screaming and crying from the agonies. of torture by the Japanese. The whites, however, suffered most of all. The Canadian soldiers had to exist on half a bowl of congee (rice boiled to a very thin consistency) daily, and were made to stand in trenches, where they were buried up to their heads and tortured. Civilians were killed like pigs, ohers were cut to pieces, others had ears lopped off. The Japanese were frightened of the population getting out of hand as a result of the food shortage, and their policy was to remove those who were not engaged in important undertakings in Hongkong. Those remaining faced dire consequences if they did not obey the Japanese.
Three Chinese doctors prominent in the community refused to accompany the Japanese to Burma. One had his fingers chopped off, another was disembowelled, and the fate of the third was not known. The Japanese also collected captives for forced labour in Burma.
The Italians and Germans were the only white people allowed to go free. They were given white armhands to distinguish them from the other Huropeans.
In order to reduce the population the Japanese started running refugee boats, and to get on these boats thousands of refugees collected at the wharves. Many people wore killed by the Japanese clubbing them on the head in efforts to control the mob. A large number of old people and children were trampled to death.
The two girls spent three days and three nights on the wharf before they were able to get aboard one of the boats. The journey from Hongkong to their home at Toishan, which normally took a day and a half, occupied ten days, but they were quite well treated.
The girls later went to Kukong to continue their studies at the University, but there they were subject to bombing and machine-gunning three times a day. There was no special military objective, but hundreds of houses were burned. Delayed action bombs were also dropped, and at first many were killed when looking at these. Journey to New Zealand Starts The girls' brother in New Zealand decided that they should join him out here, and with the assistance of another sister, attached to the U.S. Army in Chungking, was successful in making the arrangements. From Kukong the girls travelled for two days in a train to Kweiling, in Kwansi Province. There they boarded a U.S. Army plane for Kunming, in Yunnan Province. They crossed the Himalayas by plane and suffered from bleeding noses and ears in the rarefied air. In Calcutta the warmth of the hospitality of the Indians left nothing to be desired, but with true Indian courtesy they insisted on feasting the girls on large quantities of heavily curried Indian foods, and according to the custom the hosts themselves placed the fcod in the girls' mouths, with the result that the sisters were bespattered with food, while the curry brought tears. On the last stage or the journey, aboard ship, the elder of the girls proved a bad sailor, but the youngerhad a royal time, the captain taking a special interest in the two refugees. At Premantle they were entertained by the Chinese Consul, and at Sydney were interviewed by a representative of a Chinese newspaper.
The girls recalled that time after time in the adventurous weeks since December, 1941, they had escaped death by a hair's breadth. After each escape they would look at each other amazed to find they were still alive.
On every hand they found kindness as they travelled. It made no difference whether they sought assistance from Chinese, British, American or Indian—all helped the two sisters. New Spirit in China They did not, however, leave China without regret. There was a new and vital spirit in China. Men, women and children were all in the fight, and despite seven long years of war and suffering all were as determined to continue resistance to the end. The position of women in China had changed. To-day, encouraged by the bravery and devotion to duty of the "First Lady" of China, Madame Chiang Kai-shek, they were taking part in war activities of all kinds, even to fighting. Reconstruction, too, was being planned. The west was being opened up, and migration there encouraged by the Government. Free schools had come into existence, and the Government was sending its university graduates overseas for further training, so that they might return to China able to give the best possible assistance in rebuilding the country.