"Canadians should live their lives worthy of the freedom, democracy and justice they enjoy as a tribute to those who made the ultimate sacrifice defending those values," Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Sunday.
Harper marked Remembrance Day at the Sai Wan Bay military cemetery where 283 Canadian soldiers are buried on a grassy, tree-fringed slope overlooking the skyscrapers of bustling Hong Kong.
"It lies within us to do this: We can walk worthy of the lives that they laid down for us," Harper said to a group of about 300 officials and onlookers.
"They have given their lives to make possible the freedom that we enjoy, the democracy by which we govern ourselves, and the justice under which we live."
Harper, his wife Laureen and a long list of parliamentarians and local dignitaries placed wreaths at the base of the Sai Wan memorial. A local children's choir sang the Canadian and Chinese national anthems.
The battle of Hong Kong was one of the most catastrophic episodes in Canadian military history.
The 1,975 Canadian troops from the Winnipeg Grenadiers and the Royal Rifles of Canada, who had received little combat training, were vastly outnumbered by the tens of thousands of Japanese soldiers that descended on the city in the hours after the attack on Pearl Harbour in December 1941.
They managed to hold off the Japanese for nearly three weeks, with the vast majority of the brigade surrendering on Christmas Day. Nearly 300 were killed, and the rest sent to prisoner of war camps where they were subjected to torture, starvation and forced labour at the hands of their captors.
Another 267 died before liberation in 1945, and those who returned home bore the physical and psychological scars for the rest of their lives.