- May 1887
- September 1887
In May 1887 General Wong Yung Ho (also referred to as Wang Jung-Ho) and Consul U. Tsing (also referred to as Yu Ch'iung and Yu Chiung) visited the Australian colonies as part of a Chinese Investigation Commission to Southeast Asia. The proposal was initiated by Li Hung Chang, the Cantonese Viceroy, who had juristidiction of the Southeast Asia region. The Philippine Chinese had lobbied him to establish a Consul-General position in Manilla in 1880. Chang decided to extend the proposal to the rest of the region and appointed General Wong Yung Ho and Consul U. Tsing to lead an investigation into the area to assess the viability of his idea. Wong had served during the Taiping Rebellion and was the senior Commissioner and U. Tsing was China's agent in California.
The Commissioners left Canton in August 1886. As well as the Australian colonies they also visited Dutch and Spanish colonies in Southeast Asia. The official objective of the Commissioners' 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 in these colonies. Unofficially they were interested in establishing authority over the overseas Chinese, taxing them for support of Consular officials and making them contribute to the expenses of coastal defence.
While in Australia the Commissioners were welcomed by government representatives and met with the Chinese populations in Northern Queensland, Brisbane, New South Wales, Victoria, and South Australia. In Victoria Lowe Kong Meng, Cheok Hong Cheong, Louis Ah Mouy and 44 others presented them with a petition detailing their grievances which the Commissioners passed onto the Victorian premier. While the Commissioners' visit generally went smoothly some in Australia were quick to fear the Commissioners had an alternative agenda and that they really aimed to assess whether Australia was a suitable place to send more emigrants. As a result the Queensland government refused to give them an official reception and in Brisbane and Townsville the Commissioners were met by angry anti-Chinese protests and deputations.
In September 1887 the Commissioners returned to China. In their report to Chang, the Commissioners reported that overseas Chinese were generally flourishing but that conditions in the Dutch and Spanish colonies were much more tense than in Australia. They saw Australia as a country of great natural resources. They recommended that Chinese Consulate Generals be established in the region, including one in Sydney, to protect the interests of overseas Chinese. It was also recommended that Vice or Subordinate Consuls also be established in Melbourne, Adelaide and parts of Queensland including Townsville, Port Douglas and Cook Town. Unpaid Consular Agents were to be established at other ports. The establishment and running of these Consuls was to be funded from fees collected from overseas Chinese in the country that would support them. Any excess funding was to be used to build war ships specifically for protecting overseas Chinese. Chang reported these recommendations to the Emperor and the proposal was taken to the Grand Council. However the Tsungli Yamen report on these recommendations was very conservative. From China's perspective Australia was considered to be too remote and underpopulated. Of most concern was the potential cost of such a proposal which the Yamen felt would eventually fall on China. It was also recognised that the Australian governments would not support the establishment of consuls. The proposal was effectively set aside.
The first Chinese consultate, located in Melbourne, was not established until 1909.
Sources used to compile this entry: McPherson, Ailsa, 'An indifferent courtship and a loveless marriage: The evolution of Sino-Australian consular relations 1861-1909', BA (hons) Thesis, School of History, Philosophy and Politics, Macquarie University, 1985; Travers, Robert, Australian Mandarin: The Life and Times of Quong Tart, Kangaroo Press, New South Wales, 1981; Willard, Myra, 'History of the White Australia policy', MA thesis, University of Melbourne, 1920.
Prepared by: Sophie Couchman, La Trobe University
State Library of New South Wales - Mitchell Library
- Freeman Studios, Sydney : collection of photographic portraits, c. 1890 - c. 1929; State Library of New South Wales - Mitchell Library. Details
- Quong Tart and family papers (1831-1940), ML MSS 5094; State Library of New South Wales - Mitchell Library. Details
- McWaters, Vivienne, Beechworth's Little Canton: The History of the Spring Creek Chinese Camp and its Residents, Vivienne McWaters, Beechworth, 2002. Details
- Travers, Robert, Australian Mandarin: The Life and Times of Quong Tart, Kangaroo Press, New South Wales, 1981. Details
- Lake, Marilyn, 'The Chinese empire encounters the British empire and its 'colonial dependancies': Melbourne, 1887', Journal of Chinese Overseas, vol. 9, no. 2, 2013, pp. 176-192. Details
- 'Deputation. The Chinese Commissioners', Sydney Morning Herald, 6 May. Details
- McPherson, Ailsa, 'An indifferent courtship and a loveless marriage: The evolution of Sino-Australian consular relations 1861-1909', BA (hons) Thesis, School of History, Philosophy and Politics, Macquarie University, 1985. Details
- Willard, Myra, 'History of the White Australia policy', MA thesis, University of Melbourne, 1920. Details
- Chinese commissioners, General Ho and Tsing with Chinese male, 1887
- Australia - New South Wales - Sydney
- Procession in Cooktown
- 1887 - 1890
- Australia - Queensland - Cooktown
Created: 11 July 2001, Last modified: 20 October 2005