The Story of Sun Qicheng aka Thomas Sung

In the midst of the 2008 subprime financial crisis in the United States an inspiring story emerged.

A 74-year-old man of Chinese descent was arrested in the United States, and became a scapegoat for the US government, but the outcome was beyond everyone’s expectations.

The arrest of Meng Wanzhou has shocked the world. 10 years ago, there was actually a similar arrest that also shocked the world.

The defendant was just an innocent Chinese old man. He was suddenly arrested and became a scapegoat for the US government. He faced 182 charges and 240 indictments. He never expected the ending which exceeded everyone’s expectations.

He is Sun Qicheng (English name: Thomas Sung). He was born in Shanghai in 1935. His father Sun Ruilin was a famous entrepreneur and a philanthropist who founded a large orphanage in Nanshan, Chongqing and rescued thousands of children who were displaced by the Japanese invasion of China.

Under the influence of his father, the seed of national justice was planted in his young heart until it grew into a towering tree in later years. When he was 16 years old, his family migrated to the US. At the university, he obtained a master’s degree in economics and a doctorate in law. Such excellent results in the education system were rare among Chinese and even Americans at the time. After completing his studies, he could have successfully entered the upper class of the US, but he made a decision that surprised everyone.

At that time, there was no place where more Chinese gathered in the US than in Chinatown in New York. The barber shop, the small Chinese street vendors doing business on the street, the humble Chinese shoe repair stall, and theatrical performances. Everything here made him feel extremely comfortable. He said: Whenever I walk in Chinatown, I feel that it is like home…I want to be a part of them.

However, behind the Chinese existence in the US, there is actually endless bitterness and injustice.

The Chinese hawkers who set up stalls in Chinatown would be fined if the stalls encroached little bit into the road; for a short distance of one meter, they were fined USD1,000. This is the money earned for their hard work for months. The police cars would park in Chinatown at will, occupying the business space of vendors without any restriction.

He saw all this with his eyes, so when he graduated in 1964, he gave up high-paying jobs & the opportunity to enter the upper class, and established a law firm in Chinatown, where there were many shoe repair shops, vegetable stalls, and butcher shops. What he did was for only one purpose: to provide much needed & timely help for the unfair treatment suffered by his Chinese compatriots.

After more than ten years of helping to solve their legal woes, he discovered one of their most difficult problems; many small Chinese businesses in Chinatown paid their workers daily or weekly salaries. While several banks in the US had taken in tens of millions of dollars from Chinese deposits and made huge profits, when Chinese people wanted to borrow money from these banks, they faced difficulties as they were unable to come up with a convincing source of income. The result was the Chinese living in Chinatown found it difficult to buy a house, and even harder to invest in expanding their business. He tried to help his compatriots by lobbying mainstream American banks, but failed time after time.

He found this very unfair. In order to help his compatriots as much as possible, he decided to give up his law firm and open a bank himself. He said: “It’s time. I want to give back to society and the Chinese.”

“To many Chinese, the abacus is the treasure of China’s five thousand years of culture.” So he decided to call the bank Abacus Bank (National Treasure Bank) to work for the well-being of his compatriots. He invested all his wealth and resources and finally in 1980, the Abacus Bank was established.

The opening of the Abacus Bank brought great vitality to the local Chinese community & hope from helplessness and hardship. He helped them overcome all these with low-interest loans from the US government to help thousands of low-income Chinese who had settled in the US to make a living.

After 20 years of unremitting efforts, countless Chinese families regained & improved their lives. Whether it is an aunt who sold flowers or an old man who sold vegetables, with his help, they could finally afford a house, have their own business & a foothold in the US. Local Chinese often said: If you have difficulty, you can find a “national treasure”.

“National Treasure” became famous, and became the well-known OCBC Bank among the Americans.

Sun said: “The unity of Chinese people abroad should be something integrated into the blood. Abacus Bank aims to enable compatriots to live in a foreign country with dignity.”

He opened the bank in New York, and even more in the hearts of overseas Chinese. While he succeeded in his career, he always missed the China where he was born and raised. He knew the importance of talent to the motherland. In 2000, he preached the establishment of the “US-China Education Foundation” to contact many universities in the US. China’s education department cooperated in running schools and provided China with a steady stream of talents: lawyers, accountants, computer experts, finance, corporate management, etc., which deepened the exchanges between China and the US. Unanimously praised, he was called “the goodwill ambassador of China and the US” and “the architect of the Sino-US friendship bridge.”

Everything was moving towards a better place, but because of a huge storm that came suddenly, he instantly fell into a dead end. In 2008, a severe subprime mortgage crisis blew up in the US. All mainstream banks panicked. Unemployment, poverty, and bankruptcy became a huge social disaster. In order to save the country’s nearly collapsed economy, in October, President Bush signed the “Emergency Economic Stability” bill. The bill authorized the use of taxpayers’ money of up to USD700 billion in taxes to rescue those financial giants. But the American people who had been badly affected needed a reasonable explanation. To spend taxpayers’ money to rescue the Bank of America, who will be responsible for this crisis?

The government knew that the main reason for the outbreak of the subprime mortgage crisis was that the financial tycoons on Wall Street had packaged extremely risky loans and sold these to the public. This vicious circle finally triggered this unprecedented financial disaster. But because these people were too big and strong to be offended (& prosecuted), the government targeted Sun and Abacus Bank which unexpectedly, became the only financial institution at that time that was sued by the US government for loan fraud. The police went to the bank to arrest its employees. The scene was shocking. The staff were chained together and walked out one by one with their heads bent. This method of arrest even caused upset among the local lawyers in the US. “They were herded down the corridor like herding cows. There is no precedent before…” Someone said: “This is very unfair, it is a shame! If it were a group of African-American workers, they wouldn’t be treated like this!” Just because they are Chinese and living in Chinatown, they had to suffer such discrimination and injustice.

Sun was 74 years old. He never expected that a financial turmoil caused by the American banks would make him a scapegoat. He did not expect that he would be convicted of 182 charges and 240 fines in court. The farce of “the big bank is too big to fail, and Abacus Bank is small enough to be prosecuted” was staged in the US. His family was exposed to the eyes of the American people by the media, and suddenly became “the sinners of the US”, on this absurd charges. The average bad debt rate of mortgages in the US was 5% at that time, while only 9 people did not service their loans out of Abacus Bank’s more than 3,000 loans. The bank’s bad debt rate was only 0.3%, which had the lowest non-fulfillment loan rate in the US. It is unacceptable for such a reputable bank to be held responsible and carry the blame for the US financial crisis.

U.S. news reports severely humiliated the Chinese. Seeing that their father was wronged so much, his youngest daughter who was serving in the D.A.’s office resigned from the government.
“The U.S. government’ s action made me fail to see the justice and fairness preached. On the contrary, I only saw their incompetence and arrogance. I was so disappointed.”

She took up her father’s case. However, there were hundreds of lawyers on the Government’s prosecution side who investigated Abacus Bank. It was then proposed that as long as Sun Qicheng is willing to pay a fine of USD6 million, the matter could pass.

But for the dignity of his family and for the dignity of the Chinese, he did not compromise. “We Chinese do things cleanly, and we will never recognize what we have not done. This is a country that exercises power. I can’t let the Chinese face be dulled with shame. I also want to restore my own dignity!”

He decided to fight for fairness and justice no matter what the price was. In this way, a Chinese family’s war against the entire government started. In the face of powerful government agencies, his only strength was that of his four daughters. Three were lawyers and were quite familiar with U.S. politics, economy and law. “The government doesn’t know that I’m not that easy to bully, but my daughters, they are also strong, wise, and capable women…” The U.S. Prosecutor’s Office did not expect that he was so stubborn and tenacious. He had 182 charges. The prosecution used hundreds of well-known lawyers to investigate the files of Abacus Bank in full, so that his family would plead guilty.

In this most difficult period, he was supported by his closest compatriots in Chinatown.

Every day, the owner of the noodle shop presented his daughters with hot wonton noodle. They would stay in the shop for a whole day, discussing the case to “restore dad’s innocence!” Many Chinese were waiting for the day when he would be cleared of his charges. He said: “When I was in trouble, my compatriots did not abandon me. They gave me encouragement, support, and told me that I would win this lawsuit.”

The lawsuit lasted for five full years and involved more than 600,000 files. In this power disparity contest, he finally won justice with extraordinary courage. In the end, none of his 182 counts and 240 counts were proven.

After learning of the victory of the lawsuit, many Chinese came forward, “You fought for us and let us believe that we still have a chance for justice.” This was not his victory alone, but a victory to defend the dignity of all overseas Chinese.

Later, the story of Sun Qicheng’s family against the US government was filmed as a documentary depicting the Chinese resisting injustice: “Abacus Bank, small enough to jail” was nominated for best feature documentary for the 90th Oscar Award & won other film awards.

This is the legacy of the elderly Sun Qicheng, and the spirit of all Chinese people who strive for and value peace. The backbone of the Chinese people will never be broken, and the faith of the Chinese people will never be torn apart. An unyielding China will eventually win.

Watch the documentary “Abacus: Small enough to jail” (2017) – How a Chinese family fought against the US government for 5 years.

#RobertReview: 9 | 10

The Story of Thomas Sung: A Karmic Debt Scapegoat for the Big US Banks.
Sometimes you may get caught up with other organizations’ Karmic Debts or other peoples’ Karmic Debts as an obvious Scapegoat – in the form of political, racial, religious or defamation lawsuit. As an investigative journalist Robert was caught up in a few scapegoat situations in his past history. But his guardian angels have always protected him from being harmed.

Published: 24th March 2021.
Updated: 28th September 2021.