Award recognizes couple for inspiring work in China


POSTED: Sunday, January 10, 2010

The Dr. Sun Yat-sen Foundation recently awarded its first Lifetime Achievement Award to Walter Chee Kwon Chun and his wife, Sau Chun Wong Chun, regarded as pioneers of U.S.-China trade.

The Hawaii-born couple, both in their 90s, were recognized for their instrumental role in opening educational, cultural and financial doors between China and the United States, according to their daughter, Yen Chun, a director of the foundation.

“;Following President Nixon's historical visit to China (in 1972), the Chuns started their consulting business to promote U.S.-China trade, and represented numerous Fortune 500 corporations in China,”; according to a certificate from the Honolulu City Council, which also honored the Chuns. “;They are true pioneers of U.S.-China trade and builders of U.S.-China relationships.”;

Speaking on behalf of her husband, who is a frail 98, Sau Chun said: “;He was very happy to get it when they came to give him the award. He had a big smile on his face throughout.”;

Yen Chun, who is also recognized by both countries for carrying on her parents' work, said she was glad to see her mother, 94, included in the award as she has always worked alongside her father.

Walter Chun married Sau Chun, a McKinley High School teacher, in 1950. They moved to Beijing right afterward to help rebuild the war-ravaged country under Mao Zedong, who established the People's Republic of China in 1949. They stayed until 1961.

“;I was going to help the new China stand up,”; Sau Chun said. “;I prided myself that I was adaptable. Life was pretty hard—no heat, no flushing toilet, shower only two times a week—but I was going there to help.”;

She taught English to the Chinese and became a reporter whose stories were carried in newspapers around the world.

“;I wanted the rest of the world to know what China was doing,”; she said. “;The spirit there was so wonderful. You were poor, but everyone worked together.”;

The Chuns are particularly proud about facilitating the sister-state relationship in 1984 between Hawaii and Guangdong, and later the sister-island relationship between Oahu and Hainan, China.

Guangdong was Sun Yat-sen's home province, and where 90 percent of the Chinese in Hawaii came from, Yen Chun said. Local Chinese also made major contributions to Sun Yat-en's first revolutionary society, Hsing Chung Hui, formed in 1894 in Hawaii. It fueled his eventual formation of the Republic of China in 1911, she added.

Along the way, the Chuns rubbed elbows with iconic figures in China's history. Walter Chun is the brother-in-law of Dr. Sun Fo, the son of Sun Yat-sen. In 1934, Fo took Walter Chun to China to be his English secretary at the Nanking legislature. The Chuns also became close to Soong Ching Ling, Sun Yat-sen's second wife, and started a foundation in 1981 in the U.S. to carry on her work helping women and children.

Chun met and was inspired by Mao Zedong, who led the Communist faction in fighting the Japanese invasion in 1937. In 1939, Mao wrote Chun a letter of thanks in calligraphy, “;praising my dad that he had no personal agenda, but (like others) sacrificed themselves to liberate the people,”; Yen Chun said.