Asian Studies Program

Chinese Australia

Digital Documents Record

1236 Report on the visit of the Chinese Commissioners to Australia in 1887 based on material published in the Chinese Times.

Full Document Caption:
Report in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph on the visit of the Chinese Commissioners (General Wong Yung Ho and Consul-General U. Tsing) to Australia and Southeast Asia drawing on a report published in the Chinese Times. The objective of the Commissioner’s visit was to assess the social conditions of Chinese nationals living in the English, Dutch and Spanish colonies, and the expediency of establishing Chinese consulates. However the article also argues that the Commissioners were interested in exploring further Chinese immigration, particularly to Australia, and were concerned about a mass return migration to China if conditions became too bad for overseas Chinese. It also claimed that the Commissioners were developing a plan to raise funds to build warships to protect overseas Chinese. It reported that conditions in the Dutch and Spanish colonies were much more tense than in Australia and that the Commissioners saw Australia as a country of great natural resources. In concluding the article raises concerns that Australia would soon to be overwhelmed by Chinese immigrants and that it was necessary for the government to take prompt action.

Source: ‘The Chinese view of our Chinese question’, Daily Telegraph, 30 April 1888

Region: Date From: 1888 To: 1888

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In this impression we re-print from the Chinese Times the report or memorial of the Chinese Commissioners who recently visited Australia. This document, it is not necessary to say is of great interest and importance as a contribution to the discussion and settlement of the question of restricting or prohibiting Chinese immigration. WANG JUNG-HO and YU CHUN HSIEN, the two Commissioners, visited the British, Dutch and Spanish colonies to which Chinese subjects had emigrated. "The number of Chinese subjects at present trading or working in foreign lands," we are told, "does not fall short of several millions, and increases year by year at a very rapid rate. It is, of course, most praiseworthy on the part of the Chinese government to institute an inquiry into the treatment experienced by the Chinese abroad. Far-reaching solicitude of this kind is a sign of civilisation. But the report of the Commissioners shows that the Chinese government had a political as well as a charitable motive in undertaking the investigation. The belief that the Chinese Government is strongly opposed to the emigration of its subjects is an erroneous one. There is no trace of this aversion in the Commissioners' report. On the other hand, we are told that "the advancing prosperity of our people has attracted the attention of the various foreign governments, and their jealousy has been aroused. If measures are not adopted to render the residence of our citizens abroad more secure and peaceful they will flock home, and what will become of this surplus population scattered along our sea coast?" Accordingly the Commissioners were instructed not only to collect information regarding the expediency of establishing Chinese consulates, but also to submit a plan for the raising of funds at the different ports where Chinese are congregated for the purpose of building war ships for the protection of Chinese emigrants. So that, for aught we know to the contrary, the Chinese merchants of Sydney may have pledged themselves to contribute towards the cost of a ship whose guns may be turned upon the city in the event of the Parliaments of Australia passing prohibitory laws against the Chinese. The raising of funds for such a purpose and in the way indicated is distinctly avowed as one of the objects contemplated in the official visit to the British, Dutch and Spanish colonies in the Pacific and Indian Oceans.

The tone of the report is one of pride in regard to the position which the Chinese have made for themselves in most of the foreign colonies they have invaded. In Manilla "the Chinese number over 50,000 and are carrying on a most thriving business, not withstanding the great wrongs inflicted on them." The Spanish settlement feels that its future is seriously threatened by the presence of this horde of Mongolians. The Commissioners declare, indeed, that they arrived at the island just in time to prevent the Spaniards from trying to expel the Chinese, and the situation is considered to be of so serious a character that the Viceroy of the two Kuangs has recommended that one of the commissioners, the astute WANG JUNG-HO, be immediately established as Consul-General at Manilla. The Dutch colonies are overrun with Chinese. More than 200,000 have found their way into Dutch possessions. "These," the report says, "are most outrageously treated by the authorities, and when the Commission visited them they all with one impulse poured for the their wrongs." So that the Governments of Spain and Holland are likely to have a very troublesome Chinese question to settle in the near future.

The Commissioners report that they were received with special manifestations of friendship and goodwill by the officials in the English colonies. At Singapore they found a Chinese population of 150,000. In 1881 the Europeans numbered under 8000, and the Malays, &c., about 40,000. It is plain therefore, that China has virtually taken possession of Singapore. The Commissioners affirm that apart from government property, Singapore is a British colony in little more than name. Australia is described in the report as "one of the five great continents, of vast extent in area, and possessing the richest natural products. Minerals of all kinds are found there." That is a tempting territory to call the attention of hundreds of millions of Chinese to. The backdoor of the continent. Port Darwin was not partly closed a day too soon. The Commissioners recommend that a Consulate-General for Australia be established at Sydney. So far a, this may conduce to the efficient protection of the Chinese now in Australia, this is a step to which no objection can be made, but the probability, is that the principal purpose of the appointment will be to keep these colonies open to the surplus population of China. The Hongkong Daily Press, of the 21st ult., publishes a brief summary of a leading article in the Kwang-Pao of the 17th ult. on "the Proposed taxes on Chinese in Australia, which the editor thinks the home Government. will never agree to, being contrary both to treaty and to international law. England has always had the reputation of the greatest liberality to foreigners resorting to places beneath its flag, and trusting therein Chinese have flocked not only to Hongkong and Singapore, but to its several colonies in the South Pacific, to the great advantage of trade and industry therein, and as Australia is wealthy there is not even the excuse the Dutch, have in Java, the Siamese in Siam and the French in Saigon, that a poll tax is necessary for the purposes of public revenue." Evidently we are only beginning to see the real dimensions of this Chinese question. .A vast stream of population is pouring out of China and is flowing towards this continent. The intervening islands are. being rapidly filled and the only way to save Australia for the British race is to immediately prohibit Chinese immigration. At any risk this should be done. Loyalty to our race demands it. If the Imperial Government fail to measure the danger to which this country is exposed, the colonial Governments must take prompt and concerted action. The matter admits of no delay and it may be hoped that our own Government and Parliament will not hesitate to put. in operation forthwith the alternative policy set forth in Sir HENRY PARKES' dispatch.