Sun Yat-sen's Address at The University of Hong Kong
"Why I Became a Revolutionist?"
Abstract from The Hongkong Daily Press, February 21, 1923
Speeches of Welcome
In welcoming the visitor, Mr Edward Ho Tung (Students' Union President) said Dr Sun's name was almost synonymous with that of the China, and his experiences, if written in book form, would make one of the most fascinating romances ever written. - (Applause.) If a love of liberty was a test of greatness, if a love of one's country was a test of greatness, then Dr Sun would be associated with the name of greatness itself. - (Loud applause.) ... Dr Sun was a great Chinese, a true gentleman and a large-hearted patriot. - (Applause.)
Dr Sun Yat-sen's Address
Dr Sun Yat-sen, who received another ovation on rising to speak, began by saying that he felt as though he had returned home, because Hong Kong and its University were his intellectual birthplace. He had not prepared a speech but thought he would like to answer certain questions which had been put to him many times and which, no doubt, many present would also like to put to him. He had never before been able to answer it properly, but he felt to-day that he was in a position to answer. The question was "Where and how did I get my revolutionary and modern ideas?" The answer was, "I got my idea in this very place; in the Colony of Hong Kong." - (Laughter and applause.) "I am going to tell you," continued Dr Sun, "how I got these ideas. More than thirty years ago I was studying in Hong Kong and spent a great deal of spare time in walking the streets of the Colony. Hong Kong impressed me a great deal, because there was orderly calm and because there was artistic work being done without interruption. I went to my home in Heungshan twice a year and immediately noticed the great difference. There was disorder instead of order, insecurity instead of security.
His Own Protector
When I arrived home I had to be my own policeman and my own protector. The first matter for my care was to see my rifle was in order and to make sure plenty of ammunition was still left. I had to prepare for action for the night. Each time it was like this, year after year. I compared Heungshan with Hong Kong and, although they are only 50 miles apart, the difference of the Governments impressed me very much. Afterwards, I saw the outside world and I began to wonder how, it was that foreigners, that Englishmen could do such things as they had done, for example, with the barren rock of Hong Kong, within 70 or 80 years, while China, in 4,000 years, had no places like Hong Kong."
Interesting Autobiographical Details
After he had studied all this, Dr Sun continued, he went home to persuade the village elders to do the same thing, on a small scale, - at least to clear the streets and make a road to connect with the next village. The elders approved but said, he have not got the money." He replied, "Labour can we had. We young men can start the work." During his stay at home he applied himself to sweep the street and clean the road. - (Applause.) And many young men followed him. Immediately they began work outside the village, there was trouble and at last he had to give up his idea of getting Hong Kong on a small scale. - (Laughter.)
Later, he approached the magistrate of the district, who was very sympathetic and promised to help during the next vacation. But when that next vacation came round he found that there was a new magistrate - a man who had paid $50,000 for the post and so the previous holder had been removed.
Studying the Principles of Government
Such cases, one after another, impressed him and he returned to Hong Kong and began to study the government. He found that among the government officials corruption was the exception and purity the rule. - (Applause.) It was quite the contrary in China, where corruption among officials was the rule. - (Laughter.) He thought the Provisional Government would be better and went to Canton. He found that the higher the government the more corrupt it was. - (Laughter.) Finally he went to Peking, but he found things there one hundred times more corrupt and rotten than areas in Canton, and he was forced to the opinion that, after all, village government was the purest government in China. - (Applause.) He was told that the good governments in England and in Europe were not at first natural to those places, but that men had brought years ago there was just the same corruption, just the same forgeries in the Courts, and the same cruelty. But, he was told, Englishmen loved liberty and that Englishmen had said. He shall no longer stand these things, we shall change them." Then the idea came into his head. "Why can we not change it in China?" - (Applause.) We must imitate the same thing; we must change the government first, before we can start anything. Without good government a people could do nothing and in China "we had no government" and were miserable for many centuries. "Immediately after I graduated I saw" added Dr Sun "that it was necessary to give up my profession of healing men and take up my part to cure the country. - (Loud applause.) That is the answer to the question, where did I get my revolutionary ideas: it is entirely in Hong Kong. - (Laughter.)
(Copy of The Hongkong Daily Press, February 21, 1923)