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Vancouver commemorates contribution to Xinhai Revolution

(Xinhua)

09:13, September 05, 2011

VANCOUVER, Sept. 2 (Xinhua) -- Vancouver celebrated the role the city played in the Xinhai Revolution Friday in a ceremony commemorating the 100th anniversary of the uprising that ultimately resulted in the overthrow of China's Qing Dynasty (1644-1911).

At the Xinhai (1911) Revolution Centennial Commemoration week ceremony held at Vancouver city hall, political dignitaries from both the federal and civic government levels, praised the role played by the city's Chinese Freemason community in supporting Dr. Sun Yat Sen in his fight to topple the feudal system that had ruled China for more than 4,000 years.

While the Canadian city was relative outpost at the time with a population of about 26,000 at the start of the 20th century, revolutionary leader Sun, considered the father of modern China, visited Vancouver in 1897, 1910 and 1911.

As a Chinese Freemason, a benevolent society that began in China and in Canada boasted 90 percent of the Chinese laborers who built the country's national railroad, Sun was well-received by the local community who embraced his insurrectionary message.

Despite Sun's failure in several of his early uprisings, the Vancouver Chinese Freemasons continued their financial support for him, even mortgaging their buildings to raise funds for the revolution. Within one month during his 1910 visit, the group's chapters in Vancouver, Toronto and Montreal raised 70,000 Canadian dollars for the cause.

Don Davies, a federal Member of Parliament representing the Vancouver-Kingsway riding, said the Chinese Freemasons, both in British Columbia and around the world, played a "pivotal and remarkable role" in China's transformation.

"The commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Xinhai Revolution in China, celebrates the history of China. It is inextricably interwoven with the history of our own nation and community. The events of 1911 and the years before and after changed the course of the 20th century," he said.

"At that time, profound issues of responsible government, economic justice and social harmony were not only the subject of public debate, they were the objects of social change, an action of citizens across continents."

Beginning his speech with a welcome greeting in Mandarin, Vancouver Mayor Gregor Robertson spoke of the "connections and deep history" the city has with Dr. Sun, pointing out that a large Chinese garden in the heart of the city is named in honor of the dissident physician. The garden is not far from the Freemasons building at 5 W. Pender St. where the nationalist leader lived for a period.

"So these connections have always been very strong for generations now in Vancouver and it's important for us to celebrate and to mark these occasions," said Robertson, a distant relative of famed Anti-Japan War hero Dr. Norman Bethune.

"The Xinhai Revolution started China on the path of reform that helped shape modern China, a tremendous achievement in changing how the Chinese people were governed under an Imperial system for 4,000 years."

Fred Kwok, a local Chinese Freemason, provided some insight into Dr. Sun's activities in Vancouver. He said he usually arrived in the city by train from San Francisco, spending time in Vancouver and Victoria initially, then the two centers of Chinese on Canada's west coast.

With Sun joining the Freemasons in 1903 during a visit to Honolulu, Hawaii, he was immediately accepted by fellow Chinese Freemasons around the world in enlisting overseas support for his political reform at home.

Kwok pointed out overseas Chinese Freemasons raised more than 400,000 U.S. dollars for the revolution in 1911, an astronomical sum at the time, and another 500,000 U.S. dollars in the first years of the new republic.

In addition, Chinese Freemasons also bought six planes for China in the years following the revolution and hired U.S. pilots to fly them to Shanghai.

"The naming of Xinhai Revolution Centennial Commemoration Week is a landmark moment in the history of the Chinese community. As a result of the Xinhai 1911 revolution the Qing Dynasty was toppled. The revolution movement brought to the overseas Chinese the unity never seen before," he said.

"Under the banner,'Overturn the Qing Dynasty,' overseas Chinese who resided in five continents, pretty much every corner of the world, continued to raise funds to support the revolution. Some of the overseas Chinese went back to China and took part in the revolution and a lot of them actually become a martyr."

Echoing the sentiments of Dr. Sun who called the overseas Chinese "the Mothers of the Chinese Revolution," Liang Shugen, the consul-general of China in Vancouver, praised the efforts of the early Chinese Freemasons who first came to Canada 148 years ago initially to work in the gold rush before helping build the country's railroad.

"I want to thank the local Chinese community, especially the Freemasons, for their support to the Xinhai Revolution of 1911," he said. "I'd also like to thank them today for the commemoration of this event, which is to promote the unity of the Chinese people, to promote the unification of China. I must thank them for all their efforts."

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