Soong Ch'ing-ling


Ho Hsiang-ning — A Staunch Revolutionary



Source: Soong Ching Ling, "Ho Hsiang-ning —A Staunch Revolutionary", in China Reconstructs magazine, vol. XXII, no. 1 (January 1973); pages 4-6
Transcription & HTML Markup for Juan Fajardo, January 2022.




CHINA'S revered woman revolutionary, Ho Hsiang-ning, breathed her last in the early dawn of September 1, 1972. Four days later in the Great Hall of the People, hundreds of her comrades and relatives and representatives of public institutions and governmental offices paid their last respects to her. She was a close revolutionary comrade of Sun Yat-sen, the devoted and courageous wife of the Kuomintang elder, Liao Chung-kai, and a close friend of the Chinese Communist Party.

I first met her shortly after my arrival in Japan from Shanghai just after my marriage to Sun Yat-sen in October 1915. She was then known to all Chinese students as “Oba-san' (meaning Aunt) due to her long residence in Tokyo. Her husband was a most trusted comrade of Sun Yat-sen.

Tens of thousands of Chinese were then studying in Japan, hoping thereby to learn how to modernize weak, feudal, oppressed China. How could a small nation like Japan have defeated the all-powerful Tsarist Russia? Many of these students had heard about their ancestors and relatives who had perished in the war Britain forced on us in 1840, when she invaded Kwangtung and other coastal regions of China. This had been done on the pretext of promoting trade, but, in reality, it was to allow her to traffic in opium over the strong protests of the Chinese. The Chinese troops under Lin Tse-hsu had fought a determined war of resistance.

From 1856 to 1860 Britain and France jointly carried on a war of aggression against China, while America and Tsarist Russia supported them from the sidelines. The Ching dynasty was then devoting all its energy to suppressing the peasant revolution of the Taipings.

The Anglo-French Allied Forces occupied the cities of Kwangchow (Canton), Tientsin and Peking, plundered and burnt down the Yuan Ming Yuan Palace in Peking and forced the Ching government to conclude the Treaty of Tientsin and the Treaty of Peking. The main provision of these treaties included the opening of Tientsin, Nanking, Hankow and several other cities as “treaty ports'. From then on foreign forces of aggression extended themselves all over China’s coastal provinces and penetrated deeper into our hinterland.

In 1883 and 1884 the French invaded Viet Nam and the Chinese provinces of Kwangsi, Fukien, Taiwan and Chekiang. China’s troops vigorously resisted and won a series of victories. Nevertheless, the Ching government signed the humiliating Treaty of Tientsin and permitted the French forces to penetrate further. It is calculated that in the 50 years before 1911 China paid out to Britain exorbitant sums — thousands of millions of taels— for opium!

These humiliations naturally caused great unrest among the Chinese, who went in great numbers to foreign countries, especially to Japan, to gather knowledge of how to save their exploited and oppressed motherland.

After Ho Hsiang-ning married Liao Chung-kai in Hongkong she learned of her husband’s determination to go to study in Japan, but that he was without funds. She decided then to sell all her jewels, as she came from a very wealthy family and had a big dowry. Two months after his departure for Japan, she left to join him in Tokyo. She also entered school to study the language and learn painting. It was there that she came into contact with revolutionary elements who introduced her to Sun Yat-sen.

Whenever Sun Yat-sen and the students in Tokyo held revolutionary meetings, these had to be held in the utmost secrecy, for the Chinese Minister there as well as the Japanese government were always on the alert against progressive students and had forbidden their meetings and gatherings. Sun Yat-sen absolutely trusted the Liao couple and decided henceforth to hold all meetings at their house. Ho Hsiang-ning undertook the duty of hiding all shoes, boots and getas worn by the students, which according to the Japanese custom would ordinarily be left at the gate before entering the room. It was then that Ho Hsiang-ning met Chiu Chin, a woman revolutionary who was executed by the Ching dynasty rulers in 1907.

Many struggles were planned to capture a stronghold in Kwangchow but they all ended in failure. When Sun Yat-sen returned with some comrades to capture Kwangchow, many of them were killed, among them the 72 martyrs who were later buried at Huanghuakang there. Sun Yat-sen and several others managed to disguise themselves as fishermen and evade capture by heading for Macao.

Although the attempt to assassinate the Manchu governor of Kwangtung had ended in failure and the death of the heroic 72 martyrs, the news reverberated over all China; it shook the foreigners and deeply moved our own countrymen.

When the revolutionary Kuomintang government was finally established in Kwangchow in 1921, Liao Chung-kai became Minister of Finance. Ho Hsiang-ning once told me that corruption was rife in certain government offices, even in the Treasury Department where some people were using double envelopes for thieving purposes, but that this was dis covered by her husband, who, though very much occupied, was meticulous in all his work.

A Northern Expedition was decided upon to wipe out the military satraps who were mercilessly killing revolutionaries and oppressing the people. Leaving reliable colleagues behind to assume his government duties, Sun Yat-sen headed the expedition and from Kweilin in Kwangsi province advanced upon Hunan province.

The treacherous governor of Kwangtung and Kwangsi, Chen Chiung-ming, kept 25,000 troops in Kwangchow on the pretext of protecting the provinces from attacks by the Northern warlords. Taking advantage of Sun Yat-sen’s absence from Kwangchow, he connived with Chen Lim-pak, the comprador of the Hongkong-Shanghai Bank, who had been supplied with funds by the British for the purpose of ousting Sun Yat-sen. They sabotaged the Northern Expedition by refraining from sending military supplies to the front. While our troops captured city after city in Hunan, Teng Chung-yuan, a loyal Kuomintang comrade who, while in charge of military supplies, had secretly managed to deliver supplies to Kweilin, was assassinated by the traitor Chen.

Sun Yat-sen was forced to return to Kwangchow. In those days travelling was slow and it took more than two weeks to reach that city. He immediately called a conference of the newsmen, thereby hoping that public opinion would force Chen to send his troops to participate in the Northern Expedition. Traitor Chen wired Liao Chung-kai to go to Hwei-chow on the pretext of receiving funds for the treasury, then had Liao taken instead to the arsenal Shih- ching and chained hand and foot to a pillar.

On the morning of June 16, 1922, Ho Hsiang-ning heard great commotion and fierce rattling of machine guns and rifle fire. This caused her to suspect treachery. She went straight to Yeh Chu, who had been entrusted by Chen to guard the city, demanding to know the reason for creating such great confusion and taking so many innocent lives, and the burning of houses and looting by his troops in the city. When she saw the Government Headquarters burning, she demanded to know where Sun Yat-sen was. Yeh answered sarcastically, “Don't you hear his bombardment from the cruiser Yungfeng?’ She demanded to know where her husband was and where I was.

Ho Hsiang-ning later heard from a woman comrade that I had succeeded in escaping during the melee when enemy troops rushed in to loot the Government Headquarters. She came to a friend’s house on the outskirts of the city and found that I had really escaped. She then demanded to see her husband. She was taken to Shihching and saw him chained to a pillar. Guards stood over them as they talked. What agony she suffered! She then took a sampan and reached the cruiser Yungfeng where she found my husband, dripping wet, standing in the boiling heat beside the stoker. She later managed to send him changes of clothing.

Unfortunately, the original manuscripts of Sun Yat-sen’s writings and some yet-unpublished works were destroyed when the troops of the traitor and renegade Chen Chiung-ming set fire to his dwelling on the Kwanyinshan in 1923.

Ho Hsiang-ning always loyally supported Sun Yat-sen’s Three People’s Principles — Nationalism, Democracy and Livelihood — with particular emphasis on the last. The victory of the Kuomintang in 1911 was the death knell to 2,000 years of dynastic rule and marked the beginning of modern China. Ho Hsiang-ning had taken part in bringing this about. When the Three Cardinal Policies (alliance with Soviet Russia, cooperation with the Chinese Communist Party and assistance to the peasants and workers) were formulated, Ho Hsiang-ning and her husband took on a greater burden and were attacked and slandered by some of their erstwhile revolutionary comrades.

On August 20, 1925, when they were on their way to attend an important meeting of the Kuomintang headquarters, Comrade Liao, who was walking ahead of his wife, was fired on and killed outright. Giving vent to her deep grief, Ho Hsiang-ning upbraided the scoundrels who had plotted this dastardly murder in the hope of destroying the Three Cardinal Policies by their brutal act. Nevertheless, she worked even harder and brought up her children to become fervent revolutionaries.

Later she went to Shanghai and joined me in all my relief attempts to establish hospitals and raise funds for our wounded soldiers of the 19th Route Army, which alone resisted the Japanese invasion there in early 1932. At a time when we felt deeply humiliated and depressed by Chiang Kai-shek’s non- resistance, Ho Hsiang-ning sent a suit of women’s clothing to him as a reproach for his non-resistance.

She was not in good health and depressed by the arrest and imprisonment of her son by the reactionaries. After the fall of Hongkong to the Japanese, Ho Hsiang-ning took her large family of grandchildren to Kweilin, Kwangsi, for refuge.

All through this time she would remind the people unceasingly that Sun Yat-sen’s principle of land equalization must be carried out to weaken the foundation of feudalism, that his regulation of capital was meant to avoid the road to capitalism, and that when Sun Yat-sen spoke about the Powers, he meant opposition to imperialist aggressors.

Today revolutionary forces to check the war danger are growing and the level of political consciousness of the great majority of the world’s people is rising. However, the possibility of a third world war still exists, as our Chairman Mao constantly reminds us. Are the superpowers ever likely to stop their expansionism and contention for world hegemony? Sun Yat-sen’s statement on his deathbed about the necessity of uniting with the international revolutionary forces is a warning we must never forget. Even with our people’s victory, we must consolidate. Ho Hsiang-ning was deeply conscious of this fact.

When national liberation took place in 1949 under the leadership of the Chinese Communist Party and Chairman Mao and as a result of the united front, Ho Hsiang-ning joyfully left Hongkong for Peking. She realized that the victory of 1949 was not only the victory of the Chinese people but also the victory of the peoples of the entire world.

When the Rightists raised their reactionary heads in 1957 Ho Hsiang-ning fought them with all her strength.

Ho Hsiang-ning’s life was outstanding in its fullness and usefulness, and she will live in the memory of the Chinese people, for indeed she had faithfully served them, in her recent capacity also as the Vice- Chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, Chairman of the Revolutionary Committee of the Kuomintang, Chairman of the Commission of Overseas Chinese Affairs and Honorary President of the National Women’s Federation.