Asian Studies Program

Chinese Australia

Digital Documents Record

295 Papers presented by the Chinese community to the Conference on the Chinese Question in Sydney, June 1888.

Full Document Caption:

Four letters/memorials are included in this group of papers presented to the intercolonial conference on Chinese immigration held in Sydney in 1888. They are:
1. Memorial from Chinese merchants in Sydney on behalf of Chinese in Australasia and New Zealand,
2. Letter from Mei Quong Tart,
3. Memorial from Chinese merchants in Sydney on behalf of Chinese in all colonies but Western Australia,
4. Letter from Committee of Chinese Residents, Melbourne, Victoria.

The first item is a memorial written by Quong Tart, James Ung Quoy, Sun Kum Tiy, Yuen Lah, Onyik & Lee and W. Goldtown. It asks the intercolonial conference to note:
- that the Treaty of Pekin allows Chinese to migrate to British colonies and grants concessions to British in China.
- that many Chinese have already made their lives in Australia.
- the hardship suffered by Chinese resident merchants and traders travelling between colonies under current systems.
- the imposition of a poll tax of 100 pounds is unnecessarily high and would encourage evasion.
- hardship would be suffered by resident Chinese, particularly landowners and naturalised Chinese, currently visiting China if existing return arrangements were not honoured.
- Chinese resident in Australia are declining in number.
- That Chinese miners work areas already mined by Europeans and so provide Australia with wealth that would otherwise be lost.

The second item is a letter written by Quong Tart, a Chinese resident and naturalised British subject offering his services to the conference.

The third item is a memorial written by Quong Tart, James Ung Quoy, Yuen Lah, Sun Kum Tiy, Onyik & Lee and W. Goldtown. It is a supplement to the first item sent by the same people and refers to the Treaty of Tien Tsin. They again urge the conference not to jeopardise the ‘present friendly relations’ between China and Britain.

The fourth item is a letter written by Cheok Kong [sic. Hong] Cheong, Li Ah Mong [sic. Mouy], W. Shi Gun, James Moy Ling and Sun Suey Shing. It points out that:
- accusations of a ‘great influx’ of Chinese are false.
- mistreatment of Chinese in Australia and coming to Australia will eventually damage relations between China and Britain.
- ignoring Britain’s wishes could led to divisions within the colonies and with Britain, possibly leading to a civil war.
- Chinese are a peaceful, industrious and law-abiding people.
- colonial laws are ‘strained and tortured’ and even broken to oppress Chinese residents.
- actions of various colonial governments have incited and encouraged mistreatment of the Chinese by the ignorant.
- China will one day be a powerful country again.
- actions which encourage injustice, inhumanity, and violence are a poor foundation on which to build a country.
- even if Australian ports were open and free to Chinese, the Chinese still would remain a small proportion of Australia’s population.
- finding a way to handle Chinese immigration to Australia is a weighty problem that should not be dealt with hastily. It requires consideration of international rights and obligations.

Source: New South Wales Legislative Council, Conference on Chinese Question: Proceedings of the Conference held in Sydney in June 1888, Minutes of the Proceedings, Papers laid before the conference, Government Printer, Sydney,1888.

Region: Date From: 1887 To: 1888
New South Wales

This document is available in two possible forms:

1. Scanned original version

Page 1 of 4 page/s
Page 2 of 4 page/s
Page 3 of 4 page/s
Page 4 of 4 page/s

2. Searchable text version (below)


1. Memorial from Chinese Merchants. 2. Letter from Quong Tart.
3. Memorial from Chinese Residents in Australasia.

4. Letter from Chinese Residents in Victoria.

No 1.

To the Honorable the Representatives of the Australasian Colonies, meeting in Conference upon the Chinese Question in Sydney, June, 1888.

The humble Memorial of the undersigned Chinese Merchants resident in Sydney, on behalf of themselves and other Chinese residents in Australasia and New Zealand.

Respectfully Showeth-

1. That by Article Five of the Treaty of Pekin, made on the twenty-fifth day of October, One thousand eight hundred and sixty, between Her Majesty 'the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland and His Imperial Majesty the Emperor of China, it was. amongst other things, provided that the Chinese, in choosing to take service in the British Colonies or other parts beyond the seas, were to be at perfect liberty to enter into engagements with British subjects for that purpose, and to ship themselves and their families in British vessels at the open ports of China.

2. Your Memorialists would respectfully refer to the rights given to British subjects to reside in and own property in China, and to travel therein.

3. Upon the faith of the above treaty, and upon legislation passed ill the various Australasian colonies, Chinese have come to the Australasian colonies; some have married European women there ; many are still residents there, while others have left temporarily, and have in such cases obtained certificates authorizing them to return within a certain time.

4. The Chinese merchants and traders resident in the Australasian colonies from time to time require, in the ordinary course of their business, to visit the other Australasian colonies, and your Memorialists would respectfully point to the great hardship that would be inflicted on them if provision be not made for them visiting such colonies.

5. Your Memorialists would also respectfully point out that in the proposal to impose a poll-tax so high as the sum of one hundred pounds per head upon any Chinese coming to anyone of the Australasian colonies, that such amount is unduly severe and unnecessarily high on the one hand, while on the other the very magnitude of the tax would hold out inducement to breaches of the law.

6. Your Memorialists would also respectfully point out the hardship Chinese would be liable to if provision is not made for the performance of existing engagements with the Chinese in reference to their right to return to the colonies, if so returning within the time specified in their exemption tickets.

7. Your Memorialists would also point out the hardship and injury to the Chinese who may have become naturalized British subjects, and who now own property ill any of the Australasian colonies, if they be not allowed, after due examination, to return to their homes.

8. Your Memorialists would respectfully refer to the fact of the general reduction during the last few years of the numbers of the Chinese resident in Australia (with the exception of Port Darwin, under special circumstances).

9. Your Memorialists would respectfully refer to the proposal to exclude Chinese from mining, it being well known that the Chinese only follow the Europeans, and make a living where Europeans cannot; and the mining by the Chinese means the saving to the country of a large amount of wealth that would otherwise be lost.

Your Memorialists, therefore, humbly pray that your Honorable Conference will take this memorial under favourable consideration.

And your Memorialists will ever pray, &c.
QUONG TART, Sydney, Merchant.
JAMES UNG QUOY, George-street North, Merchant.
SUN KUM TIY, George-street, Merchant.
YUEN LAH, Queen-street, Merchant.
ONYIK & LEE, George-street, Merchants.
W. GOLDTOWN, King-street, Agent.


Mr. Quong Tart to the Honorable the Chairman of the Intercolonial Conference.

Sydney Arcade, 12th June, 1888.

Honorable Sir,

I have the honour to respectfully offer my services, as a Chinese resident and naturalized British subject, in any capacity that may be considered by your Honorable Assembly to be of use in arriving at the general opinion of the Chinese residents in Australasia respecting your intended legislation in the different colonies concerning the Chinese.

My services have been availed of by the Government of New South Wales on several occasions recently, and my knowledge of Colonial life in its various phases, on the diggings and as a business man generally, enables me (subject to your approval) to explain matters which possibly may require explanation at your distinguished Conference.

Kindly and respectfully apologising for approaching your august body,

I have, &c.,



To the Honorable Sir Henry Parkes, K.C.M.G., &c., &c., Premier and Colonial Secretary, &c., &c., Chairman of the Intercolonial Conference now being held at Sydney, June, 1888.


In presenting our humble Memorial to your august body, and prefacing the same by reference to Article V. of the Convention of Peace signed between Her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland and His Imperial Majesty the Emperor of China, on the 24th October, 1860, we consider that the Articles of Convention for purposes indicated are virtually Articles of Treaty as understood by the representatives of the people now and then concerned.

That the general opinion is good and has been ratified is clearly proven by the number of Chinese emigrants and passengers from time to time leaving the open ports of China (their good conduct guaranteed) for English Colonial possessions without any previous or present violation of existing treaties.

We would humbly and respectfully submit to your Honorable Conference the fact that in the Australasian colonies there are numbers of Chinese inhabitants from the different Provinces of China, who have left the open ports referred to in the Treaty of Tien Tsin, and merely mentioned as matters of detail in the Convention of Pekin in our Memorial.

The Chinese residents of Anstralasia would deeply deplore any legislation altering the present friendly relations of the subjects of Her Most Gracious Majesty the Queen of Great Britain and Ireland and His Imperial Majesty the Emperor of China in any portions of the British Empire and the Empire of China.

Our commercial intercourse, and the desire of further amity to preserve the peace and harmony of both nations, for mutual, welfare, is the earnest wish and good prayer of

Your most humble and obedient servants,

On behalf of, and with the approval of, the Chinese residents of South Australia, Victoria, New South Wales, Queensland, and Tasmania.


Chinese Question.

To the Representatives of the Australian Governments in Conference assembled.

Honorable Sirs,

The Chinese residents of Victoria, through this Committee, beg respectfully to approach your Honorable Conference in the hope that under the deep sense of responsibility attaching to your present deliberations you may see clearly that there are two sides of this important question. Locally, we have held scant courtesy shown to us as subjects of a great and friendly power, and this is probably the experience of our brethren at many other Australian ports, but of this we do not speak at present.

We consider the "cry" of a great influx of Chinese as one of those poor hollow things that time and reflection will cause the generous British mind to feel heartily ashamed of, but at the same time the cruel injustice inflicted under it may be far-reaching. "Behold how great a matter a little fire kindleth."

Our own land has no equal on earth for fertility and resources, which by-and-bye will cause her to weigh heavy in the scale of nations, and .therefore we assure you, Honorable Sirs, that the question whether a few stragglers should emigrate from such a stupendous empire like China is one of perfect indifference to her Government or her people. But the evil treatment of the few that are here or who have been recently turned away from these shores is a different matter altogether. We hope it may not be, but fear it may, that a deep wound hag been inflicted that will rankle and bear evil fruit in the near future. Our late Ambassador in London spoke wise words when be said, before a British audience, "we look to you and the representatives of your Colonial possessions now in London to see that these returning Chinese bring nothing home with them but what will promote peace and good-will between the two countries-no memories of suffering, injustice, or exceptional treatment." And we commend these words to the thoughtful consideration of the Conference.

In a vivid epoch in the history of your own great country, it was not so much the severance of the political tie which bound the American colonies to the mother country as the cruel heritage of strife that was left to rankle, causing sore grief to the wise men of both lands. But for this heritage it is possible that to-day they might have been so united by common feeling as to stand out to view as the arbitrators of the world. Notwithstanding the impassioned protests of a few splendid men, the strife was entered on with a light heart by the ruling statesmen of the day; and though as yet we have had no Colonial Statesmen to protest against the injustice we have been subjected to, yet in this connexion [sic] we are glad to admit that in our intercourse with the best class of colonists we have found amongst them a feeling of repugnance at, and an utter detestation of, the treatment which our countrymen have received at the hands of the various Colonial Governments. We draw the moral from the American incident just referred to, that it is much easier to plant a thorn in the national feeling than to withdraw it, or heal the wound.

We affirm that the Chinese are a peaceable, industrious, and a law-abiding people, and that they are not insensible of, nor ungrateful for, the protection of wise laws justly administered. What they do complain of is-

1. That the laws have been strained and tortured to oppress them.

2. That the laws have even been broken to inflict harsh treatment and injustice.

3. That by the hasty and violent conduct of the various Colonial Governments, which should have held the scales of justice evenly balanced, the more ignorant portion of the population have been incited and encouraged to outrage the feelings and show contempt and hatred to our countrymen.

We think all this is bad and foolish for these reasons.

That a time may come, nay probably will come, sooner than is supposed, when the presence and power of China as a great nation will be felt in these seas, and it lies with you to say, as wise men or otherwise, if this is to be for good or for evil.

That injustice, inhumanity, and violence afford a poor foundation to build up the life of a young nation, and however popular in the meantime it may be with the unthinking multitude, yet we are most sure such weapons mean disaster in the future to the users.

The stringency of the laws at present regulating immigration from China effectually preclude many being added to the population even if it were much desired. We, however, do not hesitate to confidently affirm that were the ports open and free, the Chinese population of Australia would always remain an insignificant portion of the whole.

Finally, it is our belief that the matter your Honorable Conference has in hand is weighty - no mere family quarrel, but one that touches most intimately international rights and obligations - dealing as it does with the stranger, within your gates. It cannot be decided by a wave of the hand, nor by heated public orations.

The Supreme Court of one colony has declared "it is not aware that such a course of conduct as has been pursued in reference to the Chinese has ever been adopted at any period of our history." Imperial statesmen have counselled you that friendship with China was well worth purchasing at the cost of a little sacrifice. We trust, therefore, that for the sake of the two great countries whose interests are involved that the dictates of humanity and justice may rule your deliberations, and that you will be guided to remember that it is righteousness alone which exalteth a nation, but that sin is the reproach of any people.

We have the honour to remain, your obedient servants,

For and on behalf of the Committee of Chinese residents, Melbourne,
CHEOK KONG [sic] CHEONG, Chairman.