Asian Studies Program

Chinese Australia

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309 Petition by Lowe Kong Meng, Cheok Hong Cheong, Louis Ah Mouy and 44 others presented to the Chinese Commissioners who in turn presented it to the Victorian premier

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This petition was presented to the Chinese Commissioners when they visited Australia in 1887. They subsequently presented it to the Victorian premier. It was written by Lowe Kong Meng, Cheok Hong Cheong, Louis Ah Mouy and 44 other unnamed Chinese residents of Melbourne.

After renewing their loyalty to China and the Emperor the petition details the ‘penalties and disabilities’ inflicted on the Chinese in Australia, particularly in the Colony of Victoria.

The petition points out that:
- the Chinese are the only race to pay a 10 pound poll tax on entering and moving between Australian colonies.
- the Chinese do not impose a financial burden on the colony.
- there is a higher duty on Chinese consumables than European consumables.
- unless issued with ‘tickets of leave’, Chinese are taxed when re-entering the Colony on any business.
- Chinese are taxed separately in each Colony and often detained.
- Chinese tea and vegetable vendors are often subjected to ‘unprovoked and cowardly assaults’. Perpetrators of assault should be more harshly punished.

Source: Victorian Legislative Assembly, Votes and Proceedings, session 1888, vol.1, Chinese Immigration, Part I. P87/1869, pp.5-7

Region: Date From: 1888 To: 1888
Victoria    

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P.87/1869.

THE CHINESE IMPERIAL COMMISSIONERS TO THE GOVERNOR.

Oriental Hotel, Melbourne,

13th June, 1887.

To His Excellency Sir Henry Loch, G.C.M.G., K.C.B., Governor of Victoria, &c., &c., &c.

MAY IT PLEASE YOUR EXCELLENCY,

We have the honour to forward herewith a copy of a representative petition we have received from the Chinese residents in Victoria, and to which we desire to ask the favour of Your Excellency's attention.

We Are,

Your Excellency's humble servants,

WONG YUNG HO,

Ü. TSING.


Referred by direction of the Governor to the Honorable the Premier .- J.W. TRAILL, Private Secretary.- 22.6.87.

[ ENCLOSURE. ]


Melbourne, 3rd June, 1887.

To their Excellencies General Wong Yung Ho and Ü. Ting, Chinese Imperial Commissioners.

MAY IT PLEASE YOUR EXCELLENCIES,

We, the undersigned Chinese residents of Melbourne, would avail ourselves of the opportunity of Your Excellencies' visit to assure you of our loyalty and devotion to the throne and person of our Most Gracious Sovereign the Emperor of China, and the great gratification with which we view the generous impulse which dictated the policy of His Majesty's Government in Your Excellencies' mission of inquiry into the circumstances, commerce, and condition of our countrymen resident in the islands of the Malayan Archipelago and Australia.

And further to formally bring under your notice the penalties and disabilities inflicted upon our nation by the law of the land, in the earnest hope that Your Excellencies may be pleased to make such representations to the Government of Victoria and the other Australian Colonies.as would lead to the removal thereof.

First.-The Poll-tax. This, Your Excellencies are aware, is a special tax of £10 a head imposed by the Government of Victoria and the adjoining Colonies, and upon none other than subjects of the Chinese Empire.

We beg to call Your Excellencies' attention to the report in the Daily Telegraph of the 31st ultimo of Your Excellencies' interview with the Hon. D. Gillies, Premier of this Colony, in which the Hon. the Premier is reported as having said that "the Chinese cost the country a considerable sum of money in many ways, their protection was a matter of expense, and the poll-tax was imposed for a compensation."

If that report be correct, we venture to declare that the excuse seems to us as extraordinary as the imposition itself is, in its departure from all the principles of international right and equity.

But, without questioning the correctness of his premises or the justness of his conclusion, Your Excellencies will please note what the Chinese contribute towards the expenses of government. Mr. Hayter's Year-Book shows that the Chinese contribution is greatly in excess of the average contributed by all other nationalities, as the following fact alone sufficiently proves.

From two out of numberless articles of Chinese consumption the Customs Department levies a duty of £3 3s. 11d, per head, whereas no article of European consumption is taxed more than at the rate of 10s. a head, whilst the next highest on the list scarcely reaches 2s. a head.

Your Excellencies will see from this that the Victorian Government has taxed us "liberally" enough through the Customs and otherwise, without singling us out for such a yoke of national ignominy and dishonour which, even in the darker days of the Roman Empire, was only reserved for the vanquished, never for the subjects of a Friendly Power-to say nothing of one in actual alliance.

In regard to the "cost" for our "protection," the same undoubted authority, .in his Criminal Statistics, shows the proportion of arrests per 1,000 of the population to be - Chinese 15.73, all other nationalities 42.516; of committals for trial, Chinese .15, all other nationalities .97.

The excuse of "the Chinese cost," therefore, Your Excellencies will see, has no foundation in fact. And it is quite possible; and indeed probable, from the tone of the reply to Your. Excellencies' request, that we shall have to entreat Your Excellencies' good offices to lay the matter before the Imperial Authorities at home for the speedy adjustment of this international wrong.

Secondly. - With the result of further harassing and humiliating our people, the laws have been so made that we cannot go outside of the Colony on any business without being re-taxed on our return, unless indeed we should choose to expatriate ourselves by becoming naturalized British subjects, or else are so initiated into the .mysteries of the law as to know that the Customs Department will grant "tickets of leave" to those who would beg it of them.

And further, there is such a concert between the adjoining Colonies that we cannot cross the borders on the North and West without being seized upon as if we were so much "contraband goods," and detained in custody until such times as we can find the duty levied upon us.

Your Excellencies can well imagine what an outcry would be raised against Chinese perfidy if a Briton were thus treated in China, yet such is precisely the treatment meted out to us by these dependencies of the British Crown, in direct violation of all international law and usage, and in contravention of the Treaty engagements entered into by the Governments of the two Empires.

Thirdly. - We complain not, Your Excellencies, of the administrators of the law, who, on the whole, deal out justice to us with becoming and even praiseworthy impartiality, but it is the law itself, and some of the authors of it, who, by their objectionable language, have so far incited the ill-feelings of the young and the simple that our tea and vegetable vendors, in the plying of their peaceful avocations, have frequently been subjected to unprovoked and cowardly assaults, so much so that the righteous indignation of the magistrates themselves has oftentimes manifested itself, by their expressions of regret that the law does not allow corporal punishment to be inflicted for such bodily injury, and by their desire for such an amendment of the law as would admit of the use of the lash. And it is our earnest conviction also that the amendment so much desired would prove a deterrent to that class of offenders, and trust that Your Excellencies will lend the weight of your official influence to bring it about.

LOWE KONG MENG,

CHEOK HONG CHEONG,

LOUIS AH MOUY,

And 44 others.