Canton Merchant Volunteers Corps Uprising

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Canton Merchant Volunteers Corps Uprising (Chinese: 广州商团事变), refers to Chan Lim Pak's (陈廉伯, aka Chen Lian Bo) Canton Merchant Volunteers Corps fighting against Sun Yat-sen's (孙中山) Guangzhou Kuomintang Government in 1924 Guangzhou.


In 1911, during the period of Xinhai Revolution, society was in chaos. Merchants in Canton established the Canton Merchant Volunteers Corps for self-defense and security. Chen Lianbo was elected commander, and also Director of Finance at the Canton Merchant Public Safety Organization (CMPSO, 广州粤商公安维持会). Chen supported the volunteer corps and lent funds for the Corps to buy weapons. In 1917, Chen Lianbo, delegated as leader of CMPSO, continued to support weapons for the corps. In August 1919, he served as the regimental commander of Canton Merchant Volunteers Corps. Size of the Corps reached thirteen thousands in 1924. The Corps maintained a neutral attitude during this period of frequent regime changes in Guangzhou. For their protection of merchants' interests and public security, the Corps were welcomed by many citizens in Guangzhou.[1][2]

In 1923, allying with the Yunnan clique and Guangxi clique, Sun Yat-sen's army defeated Chen Jiongming (陈炯明) and occupied Guangzhou. However, Sun broke his promises in Constitutional Protection Movement to reconstruct the Kuomintang government. Instead, a law of conscript was passed,[3] property from temples confiscated for sale; which angered many citizens. Furthermore, the government issued large sum of money to fund itself.[4] Due to its huge military expenses, the KMT Government had to revoke the prohibition on gambling, which was implemented during the governance of Chen Jiongming. These governmental decisions dissatisfied the commons to a large extent.[5]

In January 1924, after the First National Conference of Kuomintang, KMT adopted a new policy of "Unite Russia" and "Accept Communism" (聯俄容共). Worrying that Sun would eventually adopt Communism in Guangzhou, Canton merchants changed their attitudes towards the KMT Government. In May, KMT Government in Guangzhou announced a law of "unified road ownership", so as to impose a new tax, and caused much further dissatisfaction. In August, many strikes happened in Guangzhou. The Canton Merchant Crops established its "Defense Headquarters of Canton Merchant Corps", in which Chen Lianbo was the commander, Deng Jieshi (邓介石) and Chen Gongshou (陈恭受) were elected as vice-commanders. After further negotiations, the government decided to withdraw the road ownership law, and the strike was suspended.[6]


On August 10, 1924, the British-registered ship "Harvard" arrived in Guangzhou, carrying some 9000 guns, 40 machine gun and 3 million rounds of ammunition purchased by the Merchant Corps from a Britain company. The ship was immediately detained by Chiang Kai-Shek's (蒋介石) Jianggu Gunboat (江固舰). The Merchant Corps had already been approved for the weapon purchase, but the government claimed that both quantity of weapons carried and arrival date did not match what had been stated. On August 12 and 15, about a thousand of the Canton Merchant Corps marched to the Sun's office and appealed to the government to release their weapons. Sun refused and the Canton Merchant Corps called a strike all over the Guangdong Province.[6]

On August 24, Sun Yat Sen announced a curfew in Guangzhou, and a warrant was issued to have Chen Lianbo arrested. Two days later, Nanhai, Panyu, Shunde, Taishan, Dongwan, Zengcheng, Xinhui, Qingyuan, Gaoyao, Qujiang, Yangjiang, Luoding and other 20 counties decided to join the strike in support of the Canton Merchant Corps. Inside the KMT government, Wang Jingwei (汪精卫) and Hu Hanming (胡汉民) disagreed with Sun's proposal of suppression; Liao Zhongkai (廖仲恺), who approved for suppression, had to resign his governance. On September 4, Sun left Guangzhou for Shaoguan, the base of Northern Expedition; and appointed Hu Hanming as the Governor of Guangzhou. On September 15, Chen Lianbo, Chen Gongshou posted notion that the Merchant Corps had no intention to overturn the government in Guangzhou, they would abide to orders by Sun and KMT Government. Hu withdrew the arrest warrants for Chen Lianbo and Chen Gongshou; and he released portion of weapons to the Corps. The incident apparently was taking a turn to an ideal side.[6][7]

In the afternoon of October 10, the China Communist Party appointed labor unions, peasant unions and younger unions, with a total of over 50 thousands people, joined for a "Double 10 Warning Day". Zhou Enlai (周恩来) conducted the meeting and sent a public warning to the merchant corps. After the meeting, the CCP held a demonstration and chanted "Beat Merchant Crops, Kill Chen Lianbo, Support Revolution Government". When the crowd came into Taiping South Road (present day's People South Road), they clashed with the merchant corps, resulting in the death of more than 20 and another 100 injured. The merchant corps established defense positions in Xiguan, blockaded through-fares and posted notices calling for "Sun Yatsen should retire", "Beat Sun's government". During that night, Chen Qianzhong, the brother of Chen Lianbo, met Deng Jieshi, Li Songshao and other leaders of Merchant Coprs. It was decided to congregate all soldiers in Xiguan at 5PM on October 14, and took over governmental agencies the morning after.[6][7]

On the other side, Sun YatSen organized a revolution committee on October 11. Sun, Xu Zongzhi (许崇智), Liao Zhongkai (廖仲恺), Wang Jingwei (汪精卫), Chiang Kai-Shek (蒋介石), Chen Youren (陈友仁), Tan Pingshan (谭平山) were members. In October 15, Chiang led his army of Whampoa Military Academy students back to Guangzhou, together with other Sun's supporters, they swiftly defeated the Merchants Corp. Chiang was assisted by Soviet advisors, who also supplied him with weapons; while the merchants used weapons purchased from the Western countries.[8][9] Chen Lianbo had to leave for Hong Kong. During this battle, the business areas in Xiguan were seriously damaged in a great fire.[5][6][10][11][12][13]


Financial losses during this conflict is close to HK$ 50 million. About two thousand people had died. After the incident, KMT Government collected protection fee from the merchants; seized their weapons and levied a 200 dollar penalty for each of the participators. The government warned those who failed to comply that the "government cannot be held responsible if soldiers loot or capture anybody." [2][11] After this incident, some businessmen in Canton tended to support Chen Jiongming's instead of Sun. However, with the support of Soviet Union, Sun eventually defected Chen.

When Sun died in Beijing, government in Beijing decided to hold a state funeral for Sun. Guangzhou Chamber of Commerce (广州总商会), Guangdong Autonomy Council (广东自治会) held a joined protest against the decision.[2]


  1. ^ 潘广庆 肖绮玲. "陈廉伯故居". 中 国人民政治协商会议广州市委员会. 
  2. ^ a b c 《近代廣州商人與政治(1905-1926)》
  3. ^ 《广州市 民之愤言》,华字日报, 香港,1923年11月16日。
  4. ^ 民国十二 年香港商务之回顾,华字日报,香港,1924年2月12日
  5. ^ a b 陈炯明研究
  6. ^ a b c d e 1924年广东“商团事变”再探:大元帅府管治混乱
  7. ^ a b 黄埔日历
  8. ^ Jonathan Fenby (2005). Chiang Kai Shek: China's Generalissimo and the Nation He Lost. Carroll & Graf Publishers. p. 71. ISBN 0-7867-1484-0. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  9. ^ Hannah Pakula (2009). The last empress: Madame Chiang Kai-Shek and the birth of modern China. Simon and Schuster. p. 128. ISBN 1-4391-4893-7. Retrieved 2010-06-28. 
  10. ^ 韦慕 庭:《锻造武器:孙逸仙和国民党在广州》,89-105页,纽约哥伦比亚大学东亚学院,1966年
  11. ^ a b 广州商团事变真相
  12. ^ 广州商团叛乱被扑灭(1925年)
  13. ^ 持枪的商人 章立凡 《新世纪》周刊 2010年第41期