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Kallie Szczepanski

The Original "Birther" Controversy

By November 12, 2012

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Sun Yat-sen, nationalist leader of early modern China

November 12 is the birthday of Chinese nationalist leader Sun Yat-sen, born on this day in 1866.  Interestingly enough, Dr. Sun is the subject of a "birther" controversy similar to that surrounding President Barack Obama.  Amazingly, the Sun Yat-sen birther debate even centers around the same city - Honolulu, Hawaii.

There is one major difference between the two cases, however. While President Obama certainly was born in Honolulu, Sun Yat-sen almost equally surely was not. The Chinese leader spent time in Hawaii as a child, living with his older brother's family, but he most likely was born in Guangdong Province, China. Dr. Sun later claimed to have been born in Hawaii just so that he could enter the United States despite the deeply racist "Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882," which barred ethnic Chinese people from the country. Chinese already resident in the US were exempt, so Sun Yat-sen claimed that he was a native-born American in order to travel to the States, and recruit for the Nationalist cause.

Photo from Fotosearch / Getty Images.

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