Chi­nese Freema­sons get im­age ad­just­ment

China Daily (Canada) - - FRONT PAGE - By KELSEY CHENG in Toronto for China Daily

A scholar and a pro­fes­sor emer­i­tus at the Univer­sity of Vic­to­ria, David Chuenyan Lai, 77, has spent the past 50 years re­search­ing the history of Chi­nese Freema­sons in Canada, with only one mis­sion in mind — to keep the legacy of Hong­men alive, even among to­day’s mem­bers.

More than 60 peo­ple at­tended Lai’s talk on the history and con­tri­bu­tions of the Hong­men so­ci­ety on Fri­day, at the Richard Charles Lee CanadaHong Kong Li­brary at the Univer­sity of Toronto. His ap­pear­ance was one in a se­ries of events in the Hong Kong Canada Cross­cur­rents pro­ject, a plat­form for re­searchers to share in­sights on immigration and cul­tural stud­ies.

“A lot of cur­rent Hong­men mem­bers don’t know any of the history of the so­ci­ety they’re in,” Lai said. “I want to leave all my re­search for the fu­ture gen­er­a­tions of mem­bers.”

The Chi­nese Freema­sons, oth­er­wise known as Hong­men, were pre­vi­ously called Hong Shun Tong and Chee Kung Tong, known to be one of many se­cret so­ci­eties formed to take part in the anti-Manchu revo­lu­tion be­tween 1911 and 1912.

Sun Yat-Sen, known to many as the found­ing fa­ther of the Re­pub­lic of China, was said to have joined the Hong­men so­ci­ety in 1904. Lai’s re­search shows that he ral­lied for fund­ing from mem­bers to help him over­throw the Qing gov­ern­ment.

With no Qing dy­nasty to over­throw to­day, Sunny Law, grand­mas­ter of the Chi­nese Freema­sons of Canada, says the so­ci­ety now fo­cuses on help­ing Chi­nese im­mi­grants adapt to life in Canada. “I am grate­ful to Pro­fes­sor Lai for his re­search,” Law said. “He helped cor­rect many mis­con­cep­tions about us.”

He said peo­ple to­day tended to as­so­ciate Hong­men with Chi­nese tri­ads and or­ga­nized crime.

“It’s not true — that’s only in movies,” Law said. “We are good peo­ple.”

“There aren’t many well-kept records, and so­ci­eties won’t tell me any­thing since I’m an out­sider,” said Lai, who is not a mem­ber of the Chi­nese Freema­sons.

KELSEY CHENG / FOR CHINA DAILY

Prof David Chuenyan Lai talks about the history and ori­gin of the Chi­nese “Hong­men” Freema­sons in Canada at the Univer­sity of Toronto on July 10.

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