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Born in captivity, raised in freedom

Updated: 2015-08-27 07:36
By Chitralekha Basu (China Daily)

On the eve of the 70th anniversary of Hong Kong's liberation from Japanese occupation, Dennis Clarke and George Cautherley revisited Stanley Internment Camp where their lives began. Chitralekha Basu reports.

Born in captivity, raised in freedom

George Cautherley, 73, spent the first three years of his life in the Stanley Internment Camp with his parents and thousands of other internees. Edmond Tang / China Daily

"I am a child of internment," George Cautherley said. "My mother told me I was conceived in a brothel hotel in the western district of Hong Kong." Cautherley's parents, Dorothy and George, a British couple, were among the "enemy nationals" rounded up and taken to a rather sleazy hovel, near the present-day Macao Ferry Terminal, soon after the Japanese seized Hong Kong on Dec 25, 1941.

 Born in captivity, raised in freedom

Stanley Internment Camp internees celebrate the end of the war at their quarters in 1945. Provided to China Daily

The detainees were crammed into a cheap hotel with nearly 1,000 other people. They didn't know how long the ordeal would last or, indeed, whether they would survive it. To ease the unrelenting mental tension, Cautherley's parents decided to focus on something other than the situation they found themselves in. Having a baby seemed a good idea.

Cautherley was born on Sept 2, 1942, in the Stanley Internment Camp, where he would spend the first three years of his life, roaming around barefoot (shoes were not considered essential supplies) - a bit of a free spirit who did not realize that he and his parents were in an internment camp with about 2,800 other detainees.

"Those of us who were born there were more fortunate than those who were brought over as adults, because for us there was nothing to compare it with," Dennis Clarke said. He and Cautherley are the only two people born in the Stanley Internment Camp during the Japanese occupation of Hong Kong known to be living in the city of their birth.

Clarke, born on Jan 31, 1944, was too young to have any memories of life in Stanley in later life. What he does remember has to do with the detritus of war; the sound of the deafening sirens from the battleships moored in the harbor, and the searchlights that sawed through the night sky well after the occupation was officially over.

Clarke and Cautherley, who left the camp in September 1945 with their families, have lived abroad for many of the eventful years between then and now. They have had high-profile careers - Clarke as an hotelier and Cautherley as a leading medical products and biotech industry entrepreneur. By coincidence, both men chose to return to Hong Kong and make the city their home, eventually. Earlier this month, 70 years after they left the camp, Clarke and Cautherley finally had a chance to catch up - at the very spot where their lives began.

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