One of the memories we must unearth

Submitted by AWL on 2 November, 2021 - 10:55 Author: Sara Lee
Kuala Lumpur, 1920

On 23 Jan 1925, Wong So Ying, a young Chinese woman anarchist, bombed the Office of the Protector of Chinese in Kuala Lumpur (in Malaya, then under British rule). Newspapers at the time noted that she was dressed in a modern style, had a bob haircut, and spoke fluent English and Malay. The Straits Times reported that she was “self-educated against the will of her parents.” She was found to be acquainted with the names of anarchists in China and Chinese anarchist publications.

Wong’s bombing was celebrated in several Chinese anarchist newspapers, one of them calling her “China’s Sophia Perovskaya”. In one Chinese pamphlet about anarchism, the story of her life is told alongside that of Emma Goldman.

Wong was sold into prostitution in Singapore, where she met Mak Peng Cho, a Kuomintang (KMT) branch manager in Penang and member of a Communist Kuomintang Society. She had an on-and-off relationship with Mak and spoke freely about Chinese politics in the presence of him and other men. She moved in and around the same circles as Yat Man, an anarcho-syndicalist and print workers’ unionist.

Wong committed suicide in prison following her arrest. Five years after the bombing, Chinese writer Xu Jie, escaping KMT persecution in Kuala Lumpur, visited her grave. He wrote a short reflection on the anarchist movement in Southeast Asia happening against the backdrop of communist and nationalist movements in China. He praised Wong for her bravery, but rightly polemicised against individual acts of “propaganda by the deed.” He argued strongly for a mass working-class movement.

More of such memories and debates need to be unearthed from Chinese-language sources, especially the anarchist and communist literature that circulated from Shanghai to Malaya.

Add new comment

This website uses cookies, you can find out more and set your preferences here.
By continuing to use this website, you agree to our Privacy Policy and Terms & Conditions.