Asian Studies Program

Chinese Australia

Digital Documents Record

1617 Mr Way Lee’s letter to the editor in response to Mr Hopkins and the anti-Chinese movement in Adelaide

Full Document Caption:
Way Lee strongly condemns a move to boycott Chinese hawkers by Mr Hopkins. He states that his firm does not manage or oppress Chinese hawkers but simply assists those in need. He argues fears of Chinese outnumbering Europeans are unfounded and that Chinese people should be properly treated, particularly if the colony is interested in encouraging exports to China.

Source: ‘Mr Way Lee on the Chinese Question’, Advertiser, 5 June 1888, p.5, col.b [Item courtesy of the State Library of South Australia]

Region: Date From: 1888 To: 1888
Northern Territory
South Australia

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Sir - I notice that the working men of Port Adelaide have decided not to deal with Chinese hawkers; Mr. Hopkins too. I presume that we poor benighted Chinese are to look upon that gentleman as a bright example of the high character to which we should aspire. Mr. Hopkins said at the meeting on Friday night that Mr. Way Lee was the man who brought out the Chinamen who go round with baskets at 2s. 6d. per week, out of which there was 1s. for rice money. If Mr. Hopkins had not been an Englishman, and therefore of excellent character, I should say with a Chinese regard for merely ordinary truth that Mr. Hopkins had said something which is absolutely false; but of course I do not say it under the circumstances. It is untrue, however, to say that I ever brought out Chinese hawkers; and it is untrue, too, to say that my firm supplies them with goods or in any way employs them. I have not now and I never had anything to do with Chinese hawkers, excepting to help them when they are hard up. The chairman of the meeting said that Mr. Way Lee or some other big firm would pay their poll tax and get Chinamen out, squeezing the poll tax out of the Chinamen again. That would be absolutely untrue too. It has never been done by a single Chinese house in Australia. It never will be done in my house or in any other. The slightest knowledge of business would show a man how silly such an idea is. We Chinese do not band ourselves together in societies to oppress our fellow-men; the half-dozen have as much right to be heard in China as the half-thousand. We have always been taught that the English are brave men, afraid of nothing but wrong. There must be some mistake about that. There are only about 250 Chinese in all South Australia, not counting the Northern Territory, the number having been gradually decreasing, and yet some hundreds of Europeans are frightened at the thought of them competing with them, though they do menial work which Englishmen cannot do so well. I wish Mr. Hopkins would travel to China. We would do some real Chinese hawking; we would not charge him a poll tax; we would hawk him about us, and be kind to him, a representative stranger, and teach how gentlemanly and courteous heathens can be. He need not be afraid of bad treatment - we don't make our treatment resemble one subject. Apologising, sir, for using so much space, and regretting that in Hongkong I should have been taught that the Great God of the English Church included a corner in his loving heart for Chinamen also - I am, sir, with best respects,


P.S. - Let me say, too, to the working men of Prot Adelaide that if the Chinese are properly treated a great Australian trade will be opened up with China, and before many years every wharf from the river's mouth to Jervois-bridge will be crowded with steamers taking wool, wheat, flour, silver, and copper to China, which can carry more of these articles than Australia produces at present. That would be better for working men than swearing at Chinamen.