Pathways to Democracy
Chinese communities argued for their rights, putting them at the forefront of innovations in sustained, peaceful protest.
Chinese communities organised campaigns of resistance to the unfair taxes imposed upon them.
They sent petitions to those in authority, resisted the discriminatory taxes, wrote books arguing their cause, fought legal test cases on the constitutional right of the colony to exclude Chinese citizens, and organised civil disobedience campaigns. In 1859 in Bendigo and Castlemaine thousands of Chinese men offered themselves up for arrest for being unlicenced in a mass protest against the unjust laws.
Pictured is a detail of the front page of a petition to Governor Barkly which was signed at a meeting of over 800 Ballarat residents who opposed the Act to Regulate the Chinese Population in Victoria.
Six months later they sent another, revealing the impact the Act was having on their lives.
According to newspaper reports, the petition was signed by seven Chinese in English and about 1,400 individuals in Chinese characters. Forty-five influential Ballarat Europeans, including Ballarat’s Chinese Protector, William Henry Foster, supported the Chinese petition with a testimonial to their good character.
With thanks to the Museum of Australian Democracy at Eureka 'Chinese Fortunes' curator Cash Brown.