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Sketch of the life of Liu Shifu (Sifo, or Sifu), Chinese anarchist-communist, 1884-1915.

category eastern asia | history of anarchism | opinion / analysis author Monday September 08, 2014 21:11author by H.E. Shaw Report this post to the editors

Transcribed by Lucien van der Walt

Sketch of the life of Liu Shifu (Sifo, or Sifu), Chinese anarchist-communist, 1884-1915.
First published as SIFU: A CHINESE REVOLUTIONIST 1884-1915 by H.E. Shaw, in "Esperanto Journal of the People," from Mother Earth volume 10, number 8, October 1915



(The following sketch of Sifo [sic.] is by H.E. Shaw, translated from the Esperanto Journal of the People.")
FROM Mother Earth volume 10, number 8, October 1915, original title "Sifo: a Chinese revolutionist"

Sifo [Liu Shifu - ed] was born in the year 1884, in the city of Hangsang, province of Canton [Guangzhou - ed], China. During infancy he was an extraordinary and talented boy, and at the age of 15 he became "Sin-Can" (premier graduate of the college); but not wishing to be submissive to that slavish institution he left and taught himself the different practical sciences, and read most of the best books on those subjects, into which he delved most profoundly, this without a tutor. In 1901, when he was 18 years of age, he concerned himself about the miserable condition of the people and the putrid state of the Chinese Government; he organised public speaking and incited political revolution with excellent results. Then he went to Japan.

Sun Yat Sen, having been defeated in his revolutionary agitation in Hue Guo, also went to Japan, to recruit rebels for what he called his "Ton Men Hue" propaganda (political revolt). Sifo helped him. Not long afterwards, returning to China, Sifo edited a progressive gazette in Hong Kong, and opened a school for women. In 1907 the revolutionaries revived the agitation again. Lee Tsen, a Mandarin, who ruled for a long time in the Canton province, strenuously opposed them, as before, and Sifo came to the conclusion that before anything else they must fight the devil. One morning when Sifo was waiting on the road with a bomb for Lee Tsen, the weapon exploded prematurely, with the result that he was wounded in the head, breasts and limbs.

The police arrested him in an unconscious condition, and took him to the hospital; he recovered after having been there about a month, but his injuries necessitated amputating his left arm. He was then arrested and tried in the usual capitalist court, and sent to jail "on suspicion of wanting to kill someone." Sifo defended himself. While in jail, a veritable hell, he worked on a project about "Prison Reform"; and the mayor of the town, on reading the little work, was so astounded at the talent displayed by Sifo that he was instrumental in securing his release. Sifo had been in jail three years. He also wrote there a book on "The Dialect of Canton." which even famous linguists do not fail to admire. (This was probably written in Esperanto-Sifo was a keen Esperantist.) On coming out of prison he went to Hong Kong, and with some comrades started an Assassination Group.

In the year 1911 a member of the group threw a bomb at Lee Tsen, the Mandarin tyrant, and he (Tsen) wished to kill a Manchu prince who was the pretender to the Manchurian throne. Halting in Shangai, when the Emperor abdicated, Sifo saw a good chance for propaganda, and took advantage of the opportunity. He returned to Canton and founded the "Fui-Min" (cock-crow in the dark!) [society, an anarchist political group - ed].

Chinese Anarchist students in Paris published in 1907 a paper in the Chinese language, called the "New Times"; in it were different translations concerning the Idea, or the movement, from the world's leading Anarchists - Bakunim, Kropotkin [sic.], etc. But to import it into China was not an easy matter; however, the "Tui Min" managed to get some of the best articles from "New Times" and printed them in leaflet form and distributed them broadcast throughout China; the first sowing of Anarchism in China.

In 1912 Sifo founded the Esperanto Group and soon became the vice-delegate of the U. E. A. (Universal Esperanto Association). In the summer of 1913, when the domestic war occurred in China, he saw with his own eyes the crimes committed by the soldiers, and on that account he stronglv attacked militarism in the articles which were written in Chinese and Esperanto in the "Voice of the People;" through these articles the new-born "Voice" was suppressed, and Sifo had to flee to Macao, Portuguese territory, where he tried again to publish the paper, but the authorities there prevented it. So, after a half-a-year, passing a very trying time, "The Voice" re-appeared, and is still in existence.

On returning to Shangai, in July of the following year, he founded the Anarchist-Communist group in that city, and by its influence caused all the country rebels to form similar groups. Sifo was courageous, tolerant, decisive and diligent. He published the "Voice" gratis, and with but few to help him; also he was editor, administrator and printer, and never let up on his task. In addition he was always in poor health, and when every number of the appeared, he was, without exception, very ill.

When he somewhat recovered he would labour again, as before, and it was really his hard toil that consumed his young life. When he took ill for the last time, his poverty would not permit of his getting a doctor. It was suggested that the printing press be sold to get funds for this purpose, but he would not hear of this, on the grounds that the "Voice" was practically the only "live wire" in the Orient, and that it would be futile to sell the machine to save one person ! Later on, by the help of friends, he was placed in the hospital, but alas, too late -the disease, consumption [TB], had gripped him too tightly, and after being in the institution only a short time, Sifo died on the 27th day of March, 1915, at the age of 31.

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