Asian Studies Program

Chinese Australia

Chinese language newspapers in Australia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries

One of the earliest known Chinese language newspapers in Australia was the English and Chinese Advertiser(1857?-1857?) available for free in the Ballarat area. However it was not Chinese or Chinese Australian owned and was published by Robert Bell, Ballarat in both Chinese and English language. Only three issues of this publication are known to exist today. The newspaper consisted entirely of advertisements.

The first known Chinese backed newspaper was the Chinese Australian Herald (1894-c1920s) which was established in Sydney in 1894. In Chinese it was called Guang Yi Hua Bao or 'Paper for extending benefits to the public'). It was jointly funded by two Europeans G.A. Down and J.A. Philip and a Chinese immigrant Sun Johnson. This newspaper was funded through advertising from major Australian firms and maintained a neutral political stance throughout its 30 year lifespan. At its peak it had about 800 long term subscribers and a distribution of approximately 1,000.

During the lifetime of the Chinese Australian Herald another four newspapers were established largely in response to political upheavals and changes in China. These were the Tung Wah News (1898-1902) later Tung Wah Times(1902-1936), the Chinese Times (1902-1922), the Chinese Republican News (1914-1937) and the China World's News (1921-19?). These papers catered to a Chinese population of about 35,000 Chinese in Australasia and the South Pacific, with an estimated aggregate circulation in the early decades of the 19th century of 6,000-8,000.

The Tung Wah News or Dong Hua Xin Bao (East China News) was established in Sydney on 29 June 1898 in response to the Sino-Japanese war. It was funded through shares held mostly by Chinese merchants. One of the biggest shareholders was Thomas Yee Hing (or Yu Rong) of the On Cheong store (or Anchang Corporation) who controlled the management of the paper. Initially the paper did not have a political agenda but after the reform movement in China collapsed in 1898, it became committed to the monarchist cause of Kang Yu-wei and Liang Qichao. It also defended conservative and later reactionary causes. It promoted the development of the New South Wales Chinese Empire Reform Association and from 1900 was virtually its organ.

In 1902, after the appointment of Tang Caizhi, an editor from China recommended by Liang Qichao, the Tung Wah News changed its name to the Tung Wah Times or Dong Hua Bao (East China Newspaper). The Tung Wah Times supported the Yuan administration and condemned republican insurrections putting it conflict with the newly formed Chinese Times and later the Chinese Republic News

The Ai Guo Bao (Patriotic Newspaper or Love Motherland Newspaper) was Melbourne's first Chinese newspaper and was founded in January 1902. In English it is catalogued as the Chinese Times up until 1922, however during that time it had a number of Chinese names reflecting important shifts in ownership and political emphisis.

The founder and first editor of the Ai Guo Bao was Zheng Lu (also known as T. Chong Luke). Zheng was also one of the initial founders of the New South Wales Empire Reform Association and between 1899 and 1901 edited the Tung Wah News. By 1901 Zheng's political views had become too revolutionary for both these organisations. In addition to supporting the modernisation of China he also supported the removal of Manchu rule. Zheng left Sydney and came to Melbourne to establish his own paper. The paper aimed to encourage patriotism and raise the political consciousness of overseas Chinese. It argued that Chinese in Australia should participate in local politics to protect their interests. Zheng's business skills were not strong and in 1905 due to mounting financial difficulties he sold the paper to Ruan Jianzhai. Its Chinese name changed to Jing Dong Xin Bao (Arouse the Orient News) at this time. Difficulties continued and in 1907 the paper temporarily closed.

In 1908 the New Citizens Enlightenment Society (Xinmin qizhi hui later called the Enlightenment Society) revived the Jingdon Xin Bao as an organ for their republican propoganda. In an effort to bring the paper up to the intellectual standing of the Tung Wah Times the society appointed two republican school teachers from China, Lew Goot-chee (Liu Dihuan) and Wong Yue-kung (Huang Yougong), to edit the paper. This paper was the first paper to openly challenge monarchist ideas. In 1915 the two editors returned to China and till 1917 the paper closed. In 1910 the Enlightenment Society had expanded and they changed their name to the Young China Society (Shaonian Zhongguo Hui) which eventually became the Melbourne Branch of the Chinese Nationalist Party (Guomindang). In 1919 the paper was transferred to the Chinese Nationalist Party where is was renamed the Civic News (Min Bao). Shortly afterwards, in 1922 it moved to Sydney where it stayed in print till the close of World War II.

The Chinese Republic News or Min Guo Bao was established in Sydney by 23 Chinese Republicans (including J.A. Chuey, Moy Sing, George Kwok Bew and Peter Yee Wing) sympathetic to the nationalist cause. The two major sponsors were Yu Rong (formally a Tung Wah News supporter) and Guo Biao (a founding partner of the Wing On corporation). The paper was first published in 1912 with the aim of publicising democratic political ideals. Four years later in 1916 the Chinese Nationalist League was formed. Both organisations were established in opposition to the New South Wales Chamber of Commerce with its organ the Tung Wah Times. It was established to propogate the political doctrines of Dr Sun Yatsen. It advocated the reunification of China under Chinese nationalist forces and attacked the Yuan regime more severely than the Chinese Times and so was also in conflict with the Tung Wah Times which condemned republican insurrections. The paper was edited by Chiu Kwok-chun and Ng Hung-piu, two Chinese high school teachers and members of the then illegal Chinese Revolutionary League (established by Sun Yutsen in Japan). It claimed a distribution of 2,000 copies per issue in Australasia, the South Pacific, the Straits Settlements, Hong Kong and China. It ceased publication in 1937.

The Chinese World's News or Gong Bao (or The Bulletin) was the political organ of the New South Wales Chinese Masonic Society (previously the anti-Manchu Yee Hing) and was established in August 1921. Three thousand pounds were collected from Chinese Masonic Society members in Australia and New Zealand. Its first editor was Jue Yin Jing who was a Hong Kong merchant who arrived in Sydney in 1920 and left Australia in 1923. Jang Loong Shun, another of the newspaper's editors was also employed for a time as headmaster of the short-lived Chung Wah School in 1924. Later in 1924 he also returned to China.

The Pingbao (Harmony) and Shangbao (Commerce) were two other Chinese language magazines or newspapers which were established in the 1920s. These publications were in both Chinese and English language. However they were very short lived and very little is known about them.

The establishment of so many newspapers in such a short period of time reflected the intimate involvement of Australian Chinese in the turbulent political situation in China. In 1923 political feelings were so strong that mediation was organised between the Chinese World's News, the Chinese Times and the Tung Wah Times to try and stop their written polemics.

Comments from Liu Luxin gratefully acknowledged

Sources/Further Reading

Liu Weiping, 'Chinese Newspapers in Australia from the turn of the century' in Aozhou huaqiao shi (History of Overseas Chinese in Australia) (Xingdao chubanshe 1989), Chapter 7, pp.99-105. Translated by Sang Yichuan and John Fitzgerald.

A Chinese Reformer at the Birth of a Nation: Liang Qichao and the Chinese Heritage of Australian Federation

Tung Wah Times Newspaper Index

Yong, C.F., New Gold Mountain: The Chinese in Australia, 1901-1921, Raphael Arts, Richmond S.A., 1977