Asian Studies Program

Chinese Australia

Digital Documents Record


1243 Correspondence between Cheok Hong Cheong and the Premier of Victoria’s office regarding Chinese on board the ship Afghan.

Full Document Caption:

Cheok Hong Cheong writes to Hon. D. Gillies, the Premier of Victoria, on behalf of the ‘Committee of Chinese residents in Melbourne charged with the duty of looking after the interests of their countrymen’.

He suggests that the Chinese held on the Afghan were being held illegally, as on the Burrumbeet. He suggests that Chinese with legitimate naturalisation certificates be allowed to land. Previously Chinese with irregular certificates on payment of the poll tax were allowed to land pending investigation of their circumstances. Cheong suggests that if this practice was now to be altered, there should have been public notification.

Cheong receives a response from the Premier’s office stating that his letter contained ‘statements which are not accurate, and assertions hazarded without knowledge’ and that on this basis no response would be provided. Cheong then requests that these inaccuracies be detailed. The Premier’s office refuses. In a final reply Cheong states that he was not seeking to change current laws. He asks the government to remember the ‘treaty of peace and friendship’ which exists between China and Australia and to behave more honourably.

Source: Victorian Legislative Assembly, Votes and Proceedings, session 1888, vol.1, Chinese Immigration, Part II, P88/1796-P88/1919, pp.78-81.

Region: Date From: 1888 To: 1888
Victoria    

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P.88/1796.

MR. CHEOK HONG CHEONG TO THE PREMIER.
Montgomery Villa, Gore-street,

Fitzroy, 26th May, 1888.

SIR,
On behalf of the Committee of Chinese residents in Melbourne charged with the duty of looking after the interests of their countrymen, I have to request, now that the fourteen men who came by the Burrumbeet have, after an illegal incarceration of five days on the vessel and nineteen days at the Quarantine Station, been brought up to Melbourne at the Government expense, the poll-tax having on their behalf being previously tendered three times and by the Government illegally declined, that your attention be directed to the position of the twelve men in the Afghan, on whose behalf the poll-tax was also tendered and declined by the Government.

These men are, we contend, just as illegally kept out of the Colony and carried off from their destination as were the Burrumbeet men, and, the latter having now been admitted, we call upon the Government to bring back the twelve men in the Afghan who are now confined to that ship in Sydney Harbour. The poll-tax will be paid on their arrival.

With regard to the other men on board the Afghan who hold naturalization papers, we submit that each of these papers should have been dealt with on its merits. Some of them may have been irregular, but we are in a position to state that a large proportion of them were undoubtedly correct and in order, and the men holding them had a right to land, being British subjects, made such by the Victorian Government, who issued to them these certificates.

As to any of the men whose certificates were irregular, or otherwise inadmissible, the practice of the Government has hitherto been to admit them upon payment of the poll-tax, and we submit that any alteration of the previous practice should have, in fairness, been publicly notified.

We, however, say nothing for any men who may have held such papers, but on behalf of those for whom poll-tax was tendered, and those who hold correct certificates, we request that the legal course shall be adopted by bringing them back and admitting them.

I have, &c.,
CHEOK HONG CHEONG
Chairman of Committee

THE HONORABLE D. GILLIES, M.P.,
PREMIER OF VICTORIA


P.88/1828.

MR. P. FRASER TO THE ACTING SECRETARY TO THE PREMIER
Burramine, Yarrawonga,

Victoria, 26th May, 1888.

SIR,
Owing to my absence, I only got your letter of the 3rd instant to-day, and, in reply, beg you to inform the Premier that my scheme against Chinamen coming to Victoria is (along with the present poll-tax) that their tails must be cut off. It may appear ridiculous at first sight. There is nothing that comes against the Chinaman so much. 'I am aware of those who want their tails; I spoke to a Chinaman yesterday, who is 35 years in the colony, and he would not part with his tail for any money. This would give Victoria a rest from Chinamen until further measures could be arrived at.

I remain, &c.,

PETER FRASER.
WM. SEWELL, ESQ.,
ACTING SECRETARY TO THE PREMIER.


[unrelated correspondence cut from here]


No.88/2170.

THE ACTINIG SECRETARY TO THE PREMIER TO MR. CHEOK HONG CHEONG.
Premier's Office,

Melbourne, 28th May, 1888.

SIR,
I am directed by the Premier to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 26th inst., relative to the cases of the Chinese immigrants who arrived in this port on board the steamships Afghan and Burrumbeet.

Mr. Gillies directs me to say that your letter contains statements which are not accurate, and assertions hazarded without knowledge. He must therefore be excused from acknowledging the force of the suggestions which you make.

I have, &c.,

WH. SEWELL,
Acting Secretary to the Premier.

MR. CHEOK HONG CHEONG,
Montgomery Villa, Gore-street, Fitzroy.


P.88/1825.

MR. CHEOK HONG CHEONG TO THE PREMIER.
Montgomery Villa,
Gore-street, Fitzroy, 29th May, 1888.

SIR,
In reply to yours of yesterday's date, I beg to state that at any time, under any circumstances, I should be sorry indeed to "hazard assertions without knowledge," or "make statements which are not accurate," but particularly so in the present grave emergency, when so much - very much - depends upon accuracy of knowledge.

I shall feel myself under no small obligation, therefore, if you would be good enough to inform me and my committee wherein I have made "statements which are not accurate, and hazarded assertions without knowledge."

I have, &c.,

CHEOK HONG CHEONG,
Chairman of Committee.

THE HONORABLE D. GILLIES, M.P .,
PREMIER OF VICTORIA.


No.88/2207.

THE ACTING SECRETARY TO THE PREMIER TO MB. CHEOK HONG CHEONG.
Premier's Office, Melbourne,
30th May, 1888.

SIR,
I am directed by the Premier to acknowledge the receipt of your further letter of the 29th instant relative to the recent arrivals of Chinese Immigrants at this port.

In reply, I am to state that Mr. Gillies does not intend to enter into any discussion with you, or with the committee which you represent, respecting the course which was adopted with reference to the passengers by the Afghan and Burrumbeet respectively. He must therefore decline to enter into particulars which would necessarily take the form of a discussion.

I have &c.,
WM. SEWELL,
Acting Secretary.

MR. CHEOK HONG CHEONG,
Gore-street, Fitzroy.


P .88/1919.

MR. CHEOK HONG CHEONG TO THE PREMIER.
Montgomery Villa,
Gore-street, Fitzroy, 1st June, 1888.

SIR,
I beg to acknowledge the receipt of your letter of the 30th ult., in which you intimated that you declined to enter into any discussion with me or the committee of Chinese residents which I represent respecting the Burrumbeet and Afghan passengers.

It was very far from my intention to create any discussion whatever, but you perhaps will not be surprised if I now say on behalf of my committee that your present letter but adds an additional sting to the injustice we feel we have suffered at the hands of the Government.

In my letter of. the 26th May, I preferred what even you, Sir, must admit to be a moderate claim, that my countrymen arriving by certain steamers should be treated in an equitable manner in accordance with the laws of the country; to which you replied, on the 28th idem, that I had made "statements which are not accurate, and hazarded assertions without knowledge."

The serious defects alleged to have been made by me I wished pointed out, but you have met my request with a refusal. Be the laws just or unjust, no request was made that these should be relaxed or even generously construed in our favour. What we thought was, that since the coup d'état of the 28th April on the part of your Government, by which all the Chinese passengers of the steamship Afghan were forcibly prevented from landing at the port of their destination, your Government would have availed themselves of the ample time at their disposal for calm reflection. At least we thought we were justified in that view by the release by the Government of the whole of the passengers per Burrumbeet, after a forcible detention of three weeks and three days, that our request that the passengers of the Afghan be similarly dealt with will not be refused.

We cannot, of course, say that we are altogether taken by surprise, since the Government, which could strain and wrest the law to gratify some noisy clamour, would, in strict consistency, deny us the right which the law of the land-however inequitable in our view - never for a moment questioned.

We wou1d, however, point out that our nation is at the present moment and has been for many years past happily at peace with the great nation which your Government represent in this colony - that, moreover, a treaty of peace and friendship exists between them which confers reciprocal rights, and until such Treaty has been abrogated the surreptitious proceedings of the Government are alike dishonorable and dishonest.

In relation to this we beg to lay before you the conduct of our Chinese Government respecting foreigners. Irritating as were the proceedings of the French in Chinese waters two or three years ago, yet immediately upon the cessation of hostilities, and in a time still of great public excitement, an Imperial Edict was issued directing the heads of the various provincial governments to "correct popular misapprehension and calm popular feeling." From one of the proclamations I beg leave to quote the following sentence:-

"Neither party shall inflict injury on the other; each shall pursue in peace and quietude its respective callings, and the desire of the State to include in its kindly benevolence the men from afar equally with its own people shall not, I trust be frustrated."

Our Imperial Government, moreover, are by no means ignorant of the attitude and proceedings of the Australian Governments, as the following passage in one of the Marquis Tseng's speeches in England bespeaks. In reply to one of the numerous addresses which poured in upon him from the various municipal and commercial corporations prior to his departure from England, His Excellency said:-

"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 goodwill between the two countries; no memories of suffering injustice or exceptional treatment; no memories but such as I and my family will take away with us of the seven pleasant years we have spent in merry England."

I have, &e.,
CHEOK HONG CHEONG,
Chairman of Committee.

THE HON. D. GILLIES, M.P.,
PREMIER OF VICTORIA.