Issues in conserving ‘orphan heritage’ in Asia: WWII battlefield conservation in Hong Kong and Malaysia

Yi Wen Wang*, Jesse DiMeolo, Gao Du

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Wars and conflict have existed since the beginning of time. Most battlefield conservation work is done for battlefields that lie in the borders of the nations that were involved, thus fostering citizens’ personal ties with the site and their national identities. However, some areas of the world suffer from conservation neglect because of the distance and separation between the battlefield’s location and the country to which it is relevant, thus creating a dislocated appreciation of heritage described by Price (J Confl Archaeol 1:181–196, 2005) as ‘orphan heritage’. This paper questions the extent to which post-colonial nations are willing to protect and conserve World War II battlefields on their soil. It examines two battlefields in Asia—the Gin Drinkers’ Line in Hong Kong, China, and the Green Ridge battlefield in Kampar, Malaysia—that have been the subject of campaigns to recognise their transnational heritage value. Both battles involved multinational Allied forces led by the British against Japanese troops. A combination of political and economic factors has influenced how the two battlefields are understood and appreciated by citizens and local governments in the host nations. The paper delineates how these two Asian battlegrounds, which are relatively unknown to the general public, have been brought to the public’s attention and by whom as well as how the local governments have handled the demand to safeguard the battlefields. We argue that the global nature of WWII makes its commemoration geographically challenging and politically contentious. The WWII battlefields in Asia attest to the historical authenticity of past conflicts and thus should be conserved as neutrally as possible. The successful protection of battlefields in Malaysia and Hong Kong thus far can be largely attributed to grassroots initiatives, pressure from stakeholder countries, such as the UK, and academic research whereby the significance of the battleground is made known to people in Hong Kong and Malaysia. With public support, responsible government leadership and a shared understanding of their importance as transnational heritage, WWII battlefields can help calm bitter resentment and promote reconciliation.

Original languageEnglish
Article number12
JournalBuilt Heritage
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2021


  • World war II
  • battlefields
  • conservation
  • post-colonial countries
  • transnational heritage


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