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The Chinese. (1907, August 29). New Zealand Times, 7. http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/NZTIM19070829.2.64

THE CHINESE[1]

(To the Editor, "N.Z, Times.”)

Sir, —So much has of late been said and written at random about the Chinese in New Zealand that your readers will doubtless relish a few sober facts. The impression abroad appears to be that the Chinese are rapidly increasing in our midst, and, though the actual facts are easy of access, the majority, evidently prefer to swallow whole misstatements of the most reckless and indefensible nature. For example, Mr W. A. Lloyd, who is carrying on a more or less desultory anti-Chinese propaganda, has repeatedly stated that there are 4000 Chinese in this country, it is not pleasant to correct Mr Lloyd, but it is less pleasant, and exceedingly unfair, to allow such a statement to pass uncontradicted. A man who takes up any public question owes the public accuracy, at least, and in this case inaccuracy is scarcely pardonable, for the facts are public property. The following figures, compiled from the census returns, gives the real position:—

Census Year. Chinese in New Zealand.
1871 128
1874 4816
1878 4131
1881 5004
1886 4542
1891 4444
1896 3711
1901 2857
1906 2570

Thus we see that the number of Chinese amongst us is steadily diminishing. In the light of all the cheap declamation we have heard of late, these figures make, curious reading, but they show conclusively that the Chinese, are no menace to New Zealand, and, that, unless the present tendency should be arrested, the Chinese difficulty may soon end of its own accord. It may seem strange, in the face of the. foregoing facts, that the public should believe that the Chinese are increasing. The explanation, however, is not far to seek. The Chinese were first attracted to this country by the discovery of gold. Only within comparatively recent years have they turned their attention to other pursuits than alluvial mining. As long as the Chinaman was out of sight in the lonely gullies of Otago or the West Coast, he was not a conspicuous person. He did not come into competition with the white man because, as a rule, he worked ground which European miners had abandoned. Now, however, the position has changed. The alluvial diggings are no longer lucrative, and John has been compelled to turn his attention to work of a nature which brings him into closer contact with the white population. In addition to this, the press has of late years, with unfailing; fidelity, chronicled the arrival of Chinese immigrants, but has with equal consistency, remained silent about the emigrant Chinese. Add to these facts the deep-seated dislike to the yellow man, and you have the true reason why a statement like Mr Lloyd’s is swallowed with avidity, and duly digested as a fact.

It is not generally known, moreover, that the £100 poll tax is by no means the only penalty to which the Chinese immigrants are subjected. No vessel can bring to this country more than one Chinese passenger for every 200 tons of tonnage, without rendering the master liable to a penalty of £200. Another important fact to be borne in mind Is that legislation imposing further penalties will certainly be reserved for the Royal assent. I am correct, I believe, in saying that anti-Chinese legislation has, so far, afforded the only instance of the Crown exercising its right to veto in respect of colonial legislation. The Asiatic Restriction Act of 1836 was so reserved by Lord Glasgow, and was vetoed by the Queen, and since then legislation of a similar character has been enacted first by British Columbia and later by Western Australia, and has met the same fate. Our Act of 1896 forbade the naturalisation of Chinese, and it was undoubtedly the cause of the draft measure submitted by Mr Chamberlain to the Imperial Conference of Premiers in 1897, the chief feature of which was the imposition of a uniform educational test for Asiatics. The measure was of course, subject to ratification by the various colonial Parliaments; and all of them have adopted it in more or less mutilated form. Our Immigration Restriction Act, 1899, is practically a replica of the measure as submitted by Mr Chamberlain to the Premiers. The Commonwealth Parliament, on the other hand, has made radical alterations in the Chamberlain scheme. I mention these facts merely to show that the subject is a difficult and delicate one from the Imperial point of view. It is, however, abundantly clear that the Chinese are not a growing danger to this country. If the advocates of a White New Zealand are prepared to give our 40,000 Maori fellow subjects notice to quit, there may be some justification for all their declamation. They can scarcely show that we are in any real danger from the presence of a couple of thousand Chinese, who are rapidly becoming fewer, and it is certainly significant that a gentleman who has suddenly sprung into prominence as a White New Zealand advocate should have grossly exaggerated the number of them in this country. —l am, etc.,

P. J. O’REGAN.

August 27th.


  1. The Chinese. (1907, August 29). New Zealand Times, 7. http://paperspast.natlib.govt.nz/newspapers/NZTIM19070829.2.64

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