Asian Studies Program

Chinese Australia

Digital Documents Record


1251 Cheok Hong Cheong’s letter to the editor of the Argus regarding the Factories and Shops Amendment Act, 1904

Full Document Caption:

Cheok Hong Cheong writes to the editor of the Argus, on behalf of ‘the Chinese community’, after the passing of the Factories and Shops Amendment Bill in the Legislative Assembly. He argues the Bill was hastily passed by a government which had submitted to the demands of a ‘few labour agitators’. He contrasts Victoria’s actions with the NSW Premier’s rejection of NSW anti-Chinese movements.

He suggests that the Chinese would be unfairly forced out of the furniture and laundary industries and draws attention to one regulation in the Act which would mean all multi-story factories would have to close as their windows would be higher than 5 feet from the ground.

He warns that the treatment of the Chinese in Australia, though a small matter, might impact on relations between China and Britain. He concludes by calling for the newspaper to support the Chinese appeal against the passing of the bill in the Legislative Council.

Source: ‘To the editor of the Argus’, Argus, 22/1//1904

Region: Date From: 1904 To: 1904
New South Wales
Victoria
   

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TO THE EDITOR OF THE ARGUS

Sir, - As the people aimed at by the whole scope and purpose of the Factories and Shops Amendment bill, so hastily passed by the Legislative Assembly on Thursday last, will you be good enough to allow us the solitary privilege of marking its extraordinary character and the effect it will have if it become law?

That the subjects of a friendly power, in the pursuit of their peaceful vocations, should, at the instance of a few labour agitators, be singled out for opprobrium, and the functions of government practically suspended by the invitation to the said agitators to suggest the disabilities and penalties and the shaping of the whole bill, is, to say the least of it, extraordinary and unknown in the history of the civilised world. It contrasts rather unfavourably with the dignified reply of the Premier of New South Wales to a similar request from the anti-Chinese and anti-Asiatic leaguers, "that aliens must be treated fairly, and could not be singled out for special legislation. He could not hold out any hope that laws would be passed which would be unfair to the virtues of the Chinese."

The effect of its application, should the bill become law, will be the throwing out of employment of most of the Chinese engaged in the cabinet-making trade, and also, almost without exception, those in the laundry trade, since by the terms of the bill, nearly all the factories and workrooms will be condemned as failing to meet the new requirements that have been invented specially to harass the Chinese, though the said factories and workrooms have complied with every condition approved of for Europeans. For example, factories that are two or three stories high will have to be closed, as no inspector can peep through windows that are more than the proposed "5ft. high."

There is such a refinement of cruelty running through the whole measure that I forbear to quote further. It may be comparatively a small matter how the few Chinese sojourners make their living, but if the sense of injustice be allowed to rankle in their minds, and burn into their very soul, it cannot bode well for the future relations of two vast empires like Great Britain and China, with such illimitable resources as they both possess. Our appeal to you, Sir, and through you to the state Legislature, is to rise to the occasion, and defend with all your might your traditional reputation for fair play, so seriously imperilled by the government proposal, and secure, by you influence and example, the enforcement of the divine statute, "One law and one manner shall be for yon and for the stranger that sojourneth with you."

For and on behalf of the Chinese community, - I am, &c.,
CHEOK HONG CHEONG
Nov. 21