“A grievous injustice to the Chinese nation” : the role of the Qing Dynasty in supporting the South African Chinese
Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2019.
ENGLISH ABSTRACT: The establishment of the Qing Dynasty Consulate in South Africa, at the beginning of the twentieth century, marks the earliest official diplomatic contact between what could be considered the preceding states to modern-day China and South Africa.1 In light of the importance of the recent diplomatic relations between China and South Africa, it is pertinent to examine the situation which led to the initial diplomatic contact between the precursors of these two states. It is also important to consider what challenges these relations faced at this early stage. The Qing Dynasty Consulate in South Africa was established initially in response to the importation of a large body of indentured Chinese labourers into the Witwatersrand area.2 The arrival of somewhere near 60 000 indentured Chinese labourers between 1904 and 1907 led to a series of legislative actions in the Cape and Transvaal, which specifically targeted the Chinese for discrimination.3 Foremost among these were the Cape Chinese Exclusion Act, the Labour Importation Ordinance and the Asiatic Registration Act. The well-documented historical apathy of the Qing Dynasty towards their overseas subjects has often led to a lack of examination of what efforts were made, at an official level, by the Dynasty to assist Chinese populations in overseas colonies.4 Often, instead, the Dynasty was simply assumed to have remained apathetic to its distant subjects for its entire existence. This is the case for the Qing Dynasty’s involvement with the governments of the Cape Colony, Transvaal and Union of South Africa.5 The active resistance of the Chinese themselves against this discrimination has been analysed before, particularly in the comprehensive works of Karen Harris6, but the role played by the Consul-Generals of the Qing Dynasty has been usually under-examined or ignored.7 Evidence clearly indicates that the Consul-Generals Liu Yu Lin and Liu Ngai played an active role in supporting the Chinese communities, both free and indentured, within South Africa during their tenure. Through an analysis of the actions taken by these two Consul-Generals in both the Cape Colony and Transvaal Colony the extent of their support for the Chinese within South Africa becomes clear. Although their efforts would, ultimately, have little substantive effect on the discrimination the South African Chinese faced, it did create an institution which would be consistently utilized by future generations of South African Chinese to resist prejudice.8
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