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The Chinese Question



The Chinese Question

That the Chinese have a right to live is not for a moment disputed by the most rabid anti-Chinese agitator. But that they have a right by their mode of living to prejudice the lives of others, and practically to take away the livelihood of many, is strenuously denied. No man—be he Chinaman or black man, European or Australian—has the right by any indirection to take the bread from the labouring population of the country he has chosen for his home. The underlying principles of Democracy demand the right of all to live, and to live not only on the necessities of life, but with the enjoyment of such comforts as Earth and Labour can procure.

These principles are violated in every country to which in our times the Chinese betake themselves. They have been so conservative from times immemorial that they represent the stagnant and imperfect development of a civilisation ante-dating the Christian era. The Chinaman of today is almost a facsimile of the Chinaman of 2000 years ago. And such are the customs and the laws of China—so binding and uniform are they in their influence that each member of the Celestial family seems a replica of all the rest. Originality and variety might almost as reasonably be expected in the motions of the earth as in the customs and ideas of China. The whole nation is under a cloud of precedents, ceremonies, and a rooted desire to be no better than their ancestors. The consequence is they are not in any sense imbued with the progressive spirit of the Nineteenth Century. As labourers they excel in their capacity to work for next to nothing. . . . On the  of peculiar morals, and still more peculiar manners, have been declared gentlemen by Act of Parliament, and by the same fiction the naturalised Chinaman is declared the brother and equal of the educated and civilised colonist. In his former state the Mongol was probably something half-brute and half-human, a groveling wretch, soaked with opium, degraded by vice, ignorance, and superstition, a creature whose every touch would be pollution to the sons and daughters of a free and enlightened race. But he mumbles a formula before a magistrate and blows out a match, or decapitates a rooster, or breaks a dish, and straightway, with all his vileness, he is the legal equal of every Australian citizen, and no one can bar his entrance to the towns and cities of the colonies. He is still the same perjured miscreant who, in his old home, could be hired for 10 cents to testify on either side in a court of justice, and who for 15 cents would swear on both sides at once, but he has become a British citizen, and the “loyalty” or the maudlin folly of our legislators recognises him at once as a man and a brother.

The Bulletin 23 April 1887

This section contains racist and offensive material.
As a folklore collector I have an obligation to record such material and, hopefully, it will provide opportunities for others to understand how such material is created and transmitted. Of course, most of the items come from Australia’s early days and that needs to be taken into account.