Thursday, November 18, 2010

Dr Sun Yat Sen's historic Penang conference

Saturday November 13, 2010

Dr Sun Yat Sen's historic Penang conference

IN November 1910, the Chinese revolutionary Dr Sun Yat Sen was in many ways a disappointed and desperate man – a persona non grata, banned from Japan and in exile from China for 15 years.

He had relied much on raising funds successfully in the United States, but factional infighting within the Tongmengui caused him to turn to the overseas Chinese in Malaya (Nanyang).

He came to Singapore in July, but found that his support there was weak. He decided to move to Penang on July 19, where his key supporters, Wu Shirong (Goh Say Eng) and Huang Jingqing (Ng Kim Kheng) enthusiastically welcomed him.

In the five months in Penang, before he was expelled from the Straits Settlement by the British colonial government in December 1910, Dr Sun gathered his key supporters together, including his brother Sun Mei, Huang Xin, Hu Hanming and Wang Jingwei, to raise funds for his revolutionary work, change the Tongmenhui constitution and also founded the oldest Chinese newspaper overseas, the Kwong Wah Yit Poh.

He needed at least 100,000 Straits dollars, and in the end he raised nearly one-third from Canada, one-quarter from British Malaya and Singapore and the rest from Dutch East Indies, Siam and Indochina. Only one-eighth of the funding came from the United States.

On Sunday, Nov 12, 1910, his birthday, he convened the famous Penang Conference to plan the Second Guangzhou Uprising. Before that, he was almost in despair.

"I have written so many letters and have gotten no support. I have failed in all eight uprisings. There appears to be little hope for the Revolution. But the people of Penang provided me with protection and collected money for the ninth and successful uprising."

Most people do not realise that Qing Dynasty reformers found support and help from overseas Chinese in British Malaya. For example, after the failure of the Hundred Days' Reform Movement in 1898, Kang Youwei escaped and stayed in Penang from Aug 9, 1900 to Dec 7, 1901.

He left behind a four-character epigraph carved in stone at Kek Lok Si Temple in Penang, which stated "don't forget the motherland" dated June 29, 1903.

There were two reasons why there was such overseas support for reforms in China. First, the overseas Chinese who found their fame and fortune in Malaya and South-East Asia (Nanyang) were mostly refugees who escaped poverty and corruption in China.They welcomed change in China.

Second, the British government was interested in helping reform in China to further its trade interests. Dr Sun came to Penang probably five times – the first in 1906, shortly after he founded the Singapore branch of the Tongmenhui.

By 1910, the revolutionary cause was on a knife's edge. Dr Sun had out run of friends, barred from nearly all countries in the region, pursued by the Qing government and his family was forced to leave Hong Kong by the British administration.

In Burma, the Tungmenghui had been declared illegal. When he arrived in Singapore, his wealthy supporters were tired of pressure from the growing influence of the Manchu government overseas and some doubted his ability to overthrow the Manchu regime.

Because Dr Sun's ideas appealed mostly to the petty traders and the working class, the conservative Chinese lobbied the British to outlaw the Tungmenghui.

Finally in 1910, pressure was so intense in Singapore that Dr Sun decided to move the Tungmenghui Nanyang headquarters to Penang. Thus, it was Penang that offered the Tungmenghui and the Sun family both sanctuary and respite during the darkest period of the Revolution.

The Sun family had the opportunity to re-unite when Sun Mei, Dr Sun's older brother, arrived bringing Dr Sun's second wife, Chen Bijun and his daughters.

Although Penang was not as rich as Singapore, her Chinese community comprised both the wealthy elite who were co-opted into the Manchu bureaucracy (such as Chang Bishi), or those who supported reformists such as a parliamentary monarchy like Kang Youwei.

But Dr Sun's oratory and revolutionary zeal was able to gain his most ardent supporters in Wu Shirong (Goh Say Eng), son of a wealthy Straits-Chinese businessman, and founding chairman of the Penang Tungmenghui.

Described as a "pillar of the revolutionary movement in Malaya", Wu also founded the Penang Philomatic Union, a reading club that was the front for the Tungmenghui. Wu even sold his wife's heritage house to finance Dr Sun's cause.

In July 1910, Dr Sun had founded the Zhonghua Geming Dang (Chinese Revolutionary Party), to supercede the banned Tongmenghui.

Despite opposition from the conservative businessmen, Dr Sun's Penang supporters raised 11,000 Strait dollars and many volunteered for the "Last Battle."

In April 1911, the Guangzhou Huang Hua uprising failed when 72 martyrs were executed. Out of the 72, nearly a quarter came from Nanyang, including four from Penang. But in August, the sacrifice inspired the WuChang rebellion on Oct 10, which led to the fall of the Manchu dynasty. On Dec 29, 1911, Dr Sun was elected Republican China's first president.

The 100th anniversary of the historic Penang Conference will be celebrated by the Penang Heritage Trust with the 22nd Joint Conference of Sun Yat Sen and Soong Ching Ling Memorials.

An exhibition celebrating Dr Sun and Soong Ching Ling will also be organised at 57, Macalister Road, next to the Penang Philomatic Union. This exhibition brings to Penang a collection of Dr Sun's letters and other documents related to Penang's contribution to the making of modern China. Perhaps, most significant of all, the Sun family will be having a reunion in Penang.

Visitors to Penang will be able to see the schools and newspaper that Dr Sun helped founded and the buildings where the historic revolutionary plans were hatched.

Penang is where I now live, because it has its history immersed in China, India, the Middle East and trade in the old Malacca empire.

Today, Penang has been awarded the Unesco World Heritage site and is also a growing reputation as the best hidden gourmet secrets in Asia, hosted in historic buildings. I welcome you to visit on this historic occasion.

● Tan Sri Andrew Sheng is adjunct professor at Universiti Malaya, Kuala Lumpur, and Tsinghua University, Beijing. He has served in key positions at Bank Negara, the Hong Kong Monetary Authority and the Hong Kong Securities and Futures Commission, and is currently a member of Malaysia's National Economic Advisory Council. He is the author of the book From Asian to Global Financial Crisis.


SUN YAT SEN’S birthday anniversary on 12 November was celebrated by millions throughout the world. The following weekend in November, delegates from more than 30 Sun Yat Sen and Soong Ching Ling museums and memorial sites will have their 22nd Joint Conference in Penang, the first time outside of China. They will be part of the International Centennial Celebrations of Sun Yat Sen's 1910 ‘Penang Conference’ which the Malaysian Prime Minister Dato' Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak has agreed to launch.


The 22nd Joint Conference of the Sun Yat Sen and Soong Ching Ling Memorials in conjunction with the International Centennial Celebrations of Sun Yat Sen's 1910 "Penang Conference"

* Exhibition: 12 November 2010 to 17 February 2011 at 57 Macalister Road
* Conference: 19-22 November 2010 at City Bayview Hotel

Exhibition on Sun Yat Sen, Soong Ching Ling and Southeast Asia

* Date & venue: 12 November 2010 to 17 February 2011 at the new Penang State Museum premises (former Maternity Hospital), Macalister Road, Penang
* Organised by Min Sin Seah, supported by the Penang State Government
* Launching at 10am, Saturday 13 November 2010 by YB Wong Hon Wai representing the Chief Minister of Penang, at 57 Macalister Road
* This exhibition will introduce the memorials sites of Sun Yat Sen and Soong Ching Ling. Part of the exhibition will highlight the importance of Dr. Sun Yat Sen and his movement in the history of Penang and Malaysia, including their contributions in Chinese education, the Chinese press as well as social and political movements.

22nd Joint Conference of Sun Yat Sen and Soong Ching Ling Memorials

* Date & venue: 19-22 November at Bayview Hotel Georgetown, Penang
* The memorials network and joint conference were inaugurated in 1989 and now includes more than 40 organisations around the world. In November 2010, the Joint Conference will take place in Penang, Malaysia – its first meeting outside of China. It will be hosted by the Sun Yat Sen Penang Base, which has been the sole Malaysian member of the Joint Conference since 2005. More than 30 museums and memorials from eight cities in China, as well as from Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines, will be converging for this event.

Grand launch of the 22nd Joint Conference of the Sun Yat Sen and Soong Ching Ling Memorials in conjunction with the International Centennial Celebrations of Sun Yat Sen's 1910 "Penang Conference"

* Date & venue: 10am, 20 November 2010 at Grand Ballroom, Bayview Hotel Georgetown
* Organised by the Joint Committee of the International Centennial Celebrations
* The Malaysian Prime Minister, Dato' Seri Mohd Najib Tun Razak, has agreed to officate the launch of the conference. It will be a historic occasion for Penang and Malaysia, attended by the international delegates representing the Sun Yat Sen and Soong Ching Ling memorials, and the direct descendants of Sun Mei and Dr Sun Yat Sen, as well as the Penang and Malaysian public.

Public talk: Inaugural Penang Story Lecture by Professor Wang Gungwu

* Date & venue: 11.30am, 20 November 2010 at Grand Ballroom, Bayview Hotel Georgetown
* Organised by Think City Sdn Bhd and Penang Heritage Trust
* In his lecture “Sino-Western Penang Responses”, Wang Gungwu will look discuss the early phases of Penang’s globalisation, through the encounters of personalities such Dr Sun Yat Sen and Ku Hung Ming. Professor Wang Gungwu is the Chairman of the East Asian Institute, National University of Singapore. He is also Emeritus Professor of the Australian National University. Professor Wang is widely recognised as the "doyen of overseas Chinese historical scholarship".

International Symposium on Sun Yat Sen, Soong Ching Ling and Southeast Asia

* Date & venue: 8.00am to 4.30pm, 21 November 2010 at Wawasan Open University, Jalan Sultan Ahmad Shah, Penang
* Co-organised by Wawasan Open University
* This symposium will bring together 15-20 scholars to talk about Sun Yat Sen and Soong Ching Ling, their life and contributions and their impact on Southeast Asia. Descendants of the Sun family will also talk about Sun Yat Sen and his family. Another focus will be on the 1910 "Penang Conference", and its significance for the history of China.

Sun Yat Sen Heritage Trail, George Town World Heritage Site

* Developed by the Penang Heritage Trust, supported by Think City Sdn Bhd
* Launching on Saturday 20 November 2010 at 120 Armenian Street, Penang
* As a legacy of this conference, we will establish a Penang Sun Yat Sen Heritage Trail, which will consist of at least 10 historical sites in Penang associated with Dr Sun Yat Sen and his followers. This heritage trail will be a new tourism product targeting the China and Taiwan markets and packaged with airlines worldwide.

Organised by Sun Yat Sen Penang Base, Min Sin Seah, Penang Heritage Trust, Penang Chinese Town Hall, Taipei Investors in Malaysia Association, Malaysia, The Federation of Alumni Association of Taiwan Universities, Wawasan Open University, Chung Ling High School Alumni Association, Penang Zhongshan Association, Penang Philomatic Union, Penang Tourist Guide Association, Equator Academy of Art, Vision Academy, Malaysia.


Recently there is a conflict between two group of people on Penang, the conflict was derived from the role of Chen Cuifen, played in Dr Sun Yat-sen's life; one camp was saying she was the wife, and will focus on the role and to show the movie. The other camp said that Chen Cuifen was only used as hidden role as a companion of Dr Sun Yat-sen, this is to facilitate his activities in Penang, as a family man. The arrangement will protect him from the colonial government's attention, and protect him from the Manchu. To show the film is a disrespect to the official wife of Dr Sun Yat-sen, Madam Song Ching Ling. I hope these two camps will work together for the benefit of Penang tourism and heritage. There is no reason why they cannot work together.

Related articles:

1. Perak's former tin mining towns linked to Sun Yat-sen, by FOONG THIM LENG, The Star omline dated 15-11-2010,

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