Learning from the Spirit of Overseas Chinese Leaders and Cultivating Love for Homeland—Visit to Liem Sioe Liong Memorial Hall by Lin Xuekeng and his family

Lin Xuekeng, former director of the Fuqing Municipal People's Congress, and his family visited the Liem Sioe Liong Memorial Hall on 28 August 2021. The visit was also something on the mind of Director Lin. When he learned that the memorial hall was open for preview, he urged his son, who works in the provincial capital, and his daughter and son-in-law, who are also civil servants, to coordinate a time to bring the children along and visit the memorial hall together. He was pleased that the visit finally materialized and took place on a weekend. 



In the late 1980s and early 1990s, Lin Xuekeng was one of the key leaders of the four leadership teams in Fuqing. He participated on many occasions in the reception of renowned overseas Chinese leader Mr. Liem Sioe Liong who returned to his hometown to visit his family and relatives, and also led many delegations to Indonesia to visit Mr. Liem for investment attraction, and formed deep friendship with him. He said that Mr. Liem was a wealthy man in Indonesia, but he was friendly and approachable and willing to help Fuqing folks in Indonesia. He was always willing to help his hometown with anything they needed, be it education, medical care, transportation or water conservation. 

Entering the lobby of the memorial hall, the visitors were greeted by the seated statue of Liem Sioe Liong, dignified and gracious. Director Lin repeatedly said that the statue was lifelike. Hearing the guide say that the statue faces the direction of his hometown Niuzhai Village, as if Mr. Liem is watching the development of his hometown, Director Lin said this was just like what Mr. Liem did in his lifetime, he was always concerned about his hometown.   


In Hall 1, the guide was explaining the origin of Mr. Liem Sioe Liong's lucky number 21 when someone blurted out, ”Today is also '21'”, the 21st day of the seventh lunar month. It turned out that Mr. Liem was born on 7 September 1917, which fell on the 21st day of the seventh lunar month. Director Lin, who knew the story of the lucky number, could not help but exclaimed “miraculous”. It was fate that the day of the visit was the birth anniversary of Mr. Liem.  

After browsing through the family photographs, videos and exhibits of Mr. Liem Sioe Liong, and approaching the exhibit of Indonesians cramming Bank Central Asia during the Asian financial crisis, the guide repeated what Mr. Liem said when facing the greatest difficulty and challenge in his life, “Downsizing is not an option because 600,000 families will be affected!” In response, Director Lin said, “Without surprise, the Mr. Liem I knew was so good at dealing with people! This was the reason why everyone looked up to him.”

Hall 2 showcases Mr. Liem Sioe Liong's business empire, where he had made credibility his second life and which had grown to be a success, evoking Director Lin's memories of the past. Director Lin visited Bogasari Flour Mills and Indocement plant more than once, and on the latter trips, he brought town and village leaders with him.   

Director Lin said that Jakarta was more advanced than Fujian at that time, and Mr. Liem's company was big and powerful which broadened their insight, expanded their thinking. Realizing the gap in advancement, the visiting team secretly resolved to strive and catch up with the pace. To a certain extent, Mr. Liem had helped train the frontline cadres urgently needed for the reform and opening up. The fact that Fuqing's reform and opening up was at the forefront of the province's counties and province was inseparable from the fact that Fuqing had played to the advantages of the overseas Chinese, and it was inseparable from the fact that it had an overseas Chinese leader like Mr. Liem Sioe Liong. 

Looking at the restored office and reception room on the 20th floor of Wisma Indocement in Jakarta, Director Lin felt familiar yet strange. What was familiar was that it was on the 20th floor that he had met with Mr. Liem, that he had sat on the sofa, that the background decoration was similar to what he remembered, and that the scene of his conversation with Mr. Liem was still vivid in his mind; what was unfamiliar was that the office was empty and Mr. Liem had passed away.     

At the section of the 12 industrial sectors of the Salim Group shown through animation videos, Director Lin felt that the Salim Group under the helm of Mr. Anthoni Salim has made great progress again, with the traditional industries still ranking among the top three in Indonesia in terms of scale and efficiency, while the new industries have also grown rapidly and increasing in internationalization, which is true to the saying that “the successor is better than the predecessor”. 

Hall 3 exhibits the major projects, events and physical objects which overseas Fuqing folks, represented by Mr. Liem Sioe Liong, participated in the reform and opening up of their hometown. Director Lin personally took part in almost all of these, some of which involved decision making, some involved implementation, and some being simply on the frontline. The Rongqiao Foundation donated the program-controlled telephone exchanger and invested in Rongqiao Hotel, and developed the Rongqiao Economic and Technological Development Zone, the first industrial park in China to be bear the Chinese character “侨” (“qiao” meaning overseas Chinese). The Liem's Group created Yuanhong Investment Zone and invested in Yuanhong Port — the largest bulk berth in Fuzhou at that time. The Liem's Group also donated Yuanhong Road and Yuanhong Teachers Training School. Taking the lead, Mr. Liem and other overseas Chinese donated Overseas Chinese Theatre, Fuqing hospital ward building, Minjiang River Diversion Project and other projects. All these projects embodied the patriotic sentiments of overseas Fuqing folks, represented by Mr. Liem.  

In front of the panel displaying the approval documents for overseas Chinese donations, Director Lin said television sets, movie projectors, tractors, road rollers, fertilizers, X-ray machines, ambulances and multi-purpose vehicles were very common nowadays but were rare at that time when materials were scarce. Not only did they bring relief to the people of the hometown, they also brought benefits that were visible, tangible and useful. 

Director Lin was deeply touched by the fact that Mr. Liem would visit the veteran cadres every time he returned to his hometown in his later years. Director Lin said when Mr. Liem returned to his hometown, there were many people who wanted to see him, and those like him who had retired also wanted to see him, but were too embarrassed to bother him, and so never said so. But every time, it was Mr. Liem who was nostalgic and proposed to meet with them, and their most talked about topics revolved around Fuqing and household affairs. Mr. Liem was like an amiable, wise and open-minded elder brother who cared about them. He was a role model. 

As he watched the video of the Minjiang River Diversion Project's mobilization meeting scrolling by, Director Lin stayed for a long while. The old man, who grew up on the Longgao Peninsula and devoted his youth to the cause of “agriculture, rural areas and farmers” in his hometown, has an indelible and painful memory of the drought and water shortage. Fortunately, he was able to catch up with the good times, for under the leadership of Xi Jinping, then secretary of the CPC Fuzhou Municipal Committee, and with the full support of Mr. Liem Sioe Liong, the leaders of the four leadership teams of Fuqing led Fuqing folks at home and abroad to unite and stand on their own feet to start the Minjiang River Diversion Project, which fundamentally solved the issue of water access that had been on the minds of generations of Fuqing people.    

During the severe drought in Fuqing from 2021 to the first half of 2022, Minjiang River diversion accounted for nearly 70% of the city's water consumption, and the drought did not cause a major disaster. A great success, the Minjiang River Diversion Project benefits not only the present but also the future generations. Director Lin could not agree more with the conclusion of Lian Zhixuan, former secretary of CPC Fuqing Municipal Committee, “If not for Liem Sioe Liong's support, the RMB 800 million project would have failed.” 

The “Contributions by Fuqing Clansmen” section shows in clear illustrations the contributions of renowned overseas Chinese leaders and well-known overseas Chinese of Fuqing descent to their hometown. The projection on the wall at the exit of the exhibition hall scrolls frame by frame the “Donations by Overseas Chinese of Fuqing Descent to the Construction of their Hometown from 1979 to 2005”. Director Lin appreciated the visual reflection of history in this form, showing the contributions of overseas Chinese to their hometown, and enabling overseas Fuqing youths to learn about the good deeds of their families. Director Lin reminded his family members not to forget the kindness of overseas Chinese to Fuqing. 


The last exhibition hall introduces the public welfare projects that Mr. Liem Sioe Liong and other like-minded overseas Chinese leaders had undertaken in their country of residence, Indonesia, particularly, in persuading the Indonesian authorities to promulgate laws on the naturalization of ethnic Chinese, setting up a special agency and raising funds for 700,000 to 800,000 stateless Chinese, helping them naturalize as citizens of Indonesia. Mr. Liem Sioe Liong founded the International Association of Fuqing Clansmen to unite overseas Chinese to help their hometown. Mr. Liem also contributed to the Water Cube of the Beijing Olympics and the Shanghai World Expo. The party and State awarded him high honors. 

In Director Lin's opinion, the memorial hall focuses on the history of the first 20 years of reform and opening up of Fuqing, unfolds the picture of the unity and struggle of Fuqing folks at home and abroad to develop their hometown, reproduces the demeanor and charisma of overseas Chinese leaders represented by Mr. Liem Sioe Liong, and enriches the history of overseas Fuqing folks. He hoped that the young people would be guided to visit the memorial hall, to see, hear, read and learn the history of this period, think more about their country, hometown, families and lives, and realize the truth, so that they would not forget their origin, but keep in mind their mission, inherit their traditions, move forward with determination and live up to their youthful years!