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Lee, W.R.G.

interpreter and merchant


Very little has been written about W.R.G. Lee. At the turn of the century he was a well-known government interpreter and member of the import/export firm On Yik Lee in Sydney.

Gibbs, Bright shipping company approached Lee in 1892 and asked him to be its sole agent for providing shipping services. This would have involved issuing tickets to Chinese people wanting to return to China. Lee thought that this service should be provided by an indepentant commerical body. He took the idea to a group of Sydney merchants of various county origins and succeeded in establishing the Lin Yik Tong or Chinese Commercial Assocation in the same year.

The Lin Yik Tong and Lee soon became embroiled in a bitter dispute with Thomas Yee Hing and members of the New South Wales Empire Reform Assocation formed in 1899. This resulted in three court cases between 1901 and 1903. In 1901 Lee was successful in a case against Chan Chou (treasurer of the Chinese Empire Reform Assocation), and again in 1902 in a liable case against the Tung Wah newspaper. However when John Hoe, a member of the Chinese Empire Reform Association took him court in 1903 he lost the case. In 1903 he returned to China with his family. The dispute was so damaging that over ten years later in 1917 Lee's Australian-born son, W. Jensin, was not favoured for a directorship of the China-Australia Mail Steamship Line by the conservative section of the line's founders.

Sources used to compile this entry: Yong, C.F., New Gold Mountain: The Chinese in Australia 1901-1920, Raphael Arts, South Australia, 1977.

Prepared by: Sophie Couchman, La Trobe University

Related People

Published Resources


  • Yong, C.F., New Gold Mountain: The Chinese in Australia 1901-1920, Raphael Arts, South Australia, 1977. Details

Newspaper Articles

  • '[photograph and untitled article about On Lee's return to China]', The Sketch, 4 May. Details

See also

  • Yong, C. F., 'The banana trade and the Chinese in NSW and Victoria, 1901-1921', ANU Historical Journal, vol. 1, no. 2, 1964, pp. 28-35. Details


Lin Yik Tong, Merchant Society of Sydney (seated and standing)
c. 1902 - c. 31 January 1903
Australia - New South Wales - Sydney