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Trouble in the homeland

Trouble in the homeland

This scene shows Chinese monarchists and revolutionaries lobbying Australian Chinese for their support. In the foreground, the Tung Wah Times, a pro-monarchist paper, is being sorted for distribution

Chinese monarchists and revolutionaries are lobbying Australian Chinese for their support. In the foreground, the Tung Wah Times, a pro-monarchist paper, is being sorted for distribution.

The influence of the monarchists

After the failure of the One Hundred Days' Reform in 1898, China split into two main political movements. Kang Youwei led the monarchists who hoped to restore the influence of the reformist Emperor Kuang Hsu, by reducing the power of the Empress Dowager Ci Xi. The Hsing Chung Hui (Society for the Revival of China), a revolutionary movement led by Dr Sun Yat-Sen, were seeking to completely overthrow the Imperial Qing (Manchu) Dynasty.

The influence of the monarchists was the first to reach Australia. In 1899, Kang Yuwei wrote to Australian businessman Mei Quong Tart, seeking support. One result was the formation in 1900 of the New South Wales Chinese Empire Reform Association, run by Chinese merchants Thomas Yee Hing, Ping Nam, Gilbert Quoy and C Leanfore. In 1900, Liang Quichao, a leading figure in the monarchist movement, arrived from China and travelled throughout Australia raising support for the Emperor. The Tung Wah Times, a pro-monarchist paper, was used by the Sydney-based monarchists to influence Chinese people throughout Australia and New Zealand.

It was not until 1908 that the influence of the Hsing Chung Hui was felt in Australia. However, reform of the old Chinese ways was widespread, symbolised in particular by the adoption of western dress. There was even a Queue-Cutting Society whose members cut off their pigtails (queues) to symbolise their rejection of the Empress Dowager.

In 1909 the first Chinese consulate opened in Melbourne. However, although it lobbied for the removal of restrictions on Chinese immigration, there was little response from the Commonwealth Government.