A 1913 letter from the president of the Republic of China ordering the assassination of Sun Yat-sen in Hong Kong will go on display in the city from Friday, as part of a new exhibition on Sun’s life.
The show, called A Matter of Record, will run until March next year at the Dr Sun Yat-sen Museum, in Central, and entry is free of charge.
It features 28 exhibits on the life of the revolutionary, hailed as the father of modern China.
All exhibits are high-fidelity replicas of historical archives dating back to the founding of the Republic of China in 1912, which Sun helped bring about.
Examples include government orders and missives, personal letters and meeting minutes from the premodern era. All the exhibits are on loan from the Second Historical Archives of China in Nanjing, which holds one of the national archives.
The only one with a direct Hong Kong link is a 1913 letter from Yuan Shikai, then president of the republic, ordering a navy officer in the city, Huo Shishou, to lure Sun onto a boat and kill him.
Sun, who spent time in Hong Kong throughout his life, was out of favour with the government around then.
The letter said Sun’s killers would be commended for “meritorious service” and get a reward of 100,000 yuan (HK$117,900). The message, in which Sun was referred to as “leader of the bandits”, was sent by telegram to an address on Wellington Street in Central. It is unknown whether Huo planned any action after receiving it.
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“It might sound boring that an exhibition displays purely historical records,” Jeremy Hui Siu-mui, acting director of the Hong Kong Museum of History, said.
“But we want visitors to focus on the content of these archives, reading between the lines and appreciating the literature and style.”
She said visitors could take an up-close look at the evidence to get a deeper insight into how Sun, despite the government persecution, was eventually recognised as a national hero.
She cited a government document on display, dated February 1929, stating the special status of Dr Sun Yat-sen’s Testament, a key essay of Sun’s, which was released soon after his death in 1925.
“The salvage of these archives came as a surprise,” said Ma Zhendu, director of the Second Historical Archives and a co-organiser of the exhibition.
“We discovered some of the exhibits in 2011 because it took us almost 50 years [from the establishment of the People’s Republic of China] to finally catalogue the historical records from the Republic of China era.”