The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and Racial Discrimination in the United States

Introduction

“Money monopoly,” said Denis Kearney in a 1878 address,  “has reached its grandest proportions. Here, in San Francisco, the palace of the millionaire looms up above the hovel of the starving poor with as wide a contrast as anywhere on earth. To add to our misery and despair, a bloated aristocracy has sent to China—the greatest and oldest despotism in the world—for a cheap working slave. It rakes the slums of Asia to find the meanest slave on earth—the Chinese coolie—and imports him here to meet the free American in the Labor market, and still further widen the breach between the rich and the poor, still further to degrade white Labor.”

Denis Kearney (1847–1907) was a leader of the American labour movement, a demagogue who blamed Chinese immigrants for the economic woes of the Californian working class.

What is a demagogue? According to Reinhard H. Luthin, it is “a politician skilled in oratory, flattery, and invective; evasive in discussing vital issues; promising everything to everybody; appealing to the passions rather than the reason of the public; and arousing racial, religious, and class prejudices” (Reinhard H. Luthin: American Demagogues: Twentieth Century, 1954, p. 3).

Kearney did not create anti-Chinese sentiment. The fear and prejudices against this particular group of immigrants were strong among white people in the United States, so strong that one can find them in numerous speeches by politicians throughout the 19th and early 20th century, as well as in literature.

One fascinating example of anti-Chinese feelings in the US is the science fiction short story by American author Jack London entitled “The Unparalleled Invasion“. In this dystopian story he articulated the fear of the “white man” being overrun by hordes of Chinese, of Western civilization and power being undermined by Asia. He imagined a future in which China, after learning from Japan how to develop economically and technologically, would pose a threat to European Empires in the East and outnumber “white people”. London wrote:

China’s swift and remarkable rise was due, perhaps more than to anything else, to the superlative quality of her labour. The Chinese was the perfect type of industry. He had always been that. For sheer ability to work no worker in the world could compare with him. Work was the breath of his nostrils. It was to him what wandering and fighting in far lands and spiritual adventure had been to other peoples. Liberty, to him, epitomized itself in access to the means of toil. To till the soil and labour interminably was all he asked of life and the powers that be. And the awakening of China had given its vast population not merely free and unlimited access to the means of toil, but access to the highest and most scientific machine-means of toil. China rejuvenescent! It was but a step to China rampant. She discovered a new pride in herself and a will of her own…

This passage shows one core element of “sinophobia” (fear of the Chinese): the Chinese people’s capacity for hard work and self-sacrifice, which appeared to the “white man” almost inhuman. Let us now  examine another excerpt:  Continue reading

Legalism And Leninism In China’s Constitutional History

guomin_dahui_dalitang_28nanjing2c_193529

The National People’s Convention met in the Great Hall of National Central University in Nanjing on May 5, 1931. Seven days later the Convention adopted the Provisional Constitution (photo by unknown author, via Wikimedia Commons)

When the Qing Dynasty was overthrown in 1911 and the Republic of China (ROC) was proclaimed, the revolutionaries led by Sun Yat-sen embarked on an ambitious experiment to modernise the country according to liberal Western ideals of democracy, human rights and division of powers. The new Republican government issued a Provisional Constitution which guaranteed progressive democratic rights, including judicial independence. However, after the first elections held in 1913, general Yuan Shikai unlawfully seized power and suppressed the elected parliamentary majority. Sun Yat-sen and his party, the Guomindang, were forced into underground opposition. When Yuan died in 1916, the central government fell apart, and regional warlords created personal fiefdoms in which they ruled like monarchs.

The 1912 Constitution was inspired by the ideals of the American and French revolutions. But the failure of democracy, the repression suffered at the hands of Yuan Shikai and the warlords, and the threat of foreign imperialism convinced Sun Yat-sen that democracy in China was unattainable as a short-term goal. He observed with keen interest the events of the Russian revolution, and the triumph of the Communists led by Lenin seemed to him an example of a revolutionary party that had succeeded where the Guomindang had failed. Sun asked for Soviet help, and Russian advisers were sent to China to reorganise the Guomindang on the basis of Leninist principles. Continue reading

China’s Legal System – Communist or Feudal?

723px-supreme_people27s_court_of_p-r-china27s_badge-svg

Emblem of the People’s Court of the People’s Republic of China (source: Wikipedia)

 

 

On October 13, 2014, Yu Wensheng, a lawyer from Beijing, was arrested and detained by the police for 99 days . He was interrogated approximately 200 hundred times by 10 officers who worked in shifts night and day. Yu’s wrists were fastened behind his back with handcuffs.  “My hands were swollen and I felt so much pain that I didn’t want to live“, he told Amnesty International. “The police officers repeatedly yanked the handcuffs and I would scream“. Two days before his arrest, Yu had submitted a request to Beijing Fengtai Detention Centre for meeting one of his clients. The authorities had rejected Yu’s request without reason. As an act of protest, he stayed in front of the detention centre and later published a post online describing the incident. At around midnight the police forced him to leave, and on October 13 the Beijing Daxing District Public Security Bureau arrested him on charges of “disorderly behaviour” (寻衅滋事罪). Yu was denied access to his lawyers and his family. According to Albert Ho, chairperson of the China Human Rights Lawyers Concern Group, in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) “it is not uncommon for a lawyer to be made captive as a result of conducting his legal duties“. Cases of lawyers arrested without due procedures and tortured by state organs are numerous. It is estimated that since last year approximately 250 human rights lawyers have been detained or mysteriously went missing.

On 17 October 2015, 51-year-old Gui Minhai disappeared from his home in Pattaya, Thailand. Gui was a shareholder of Hong Kong-based publishing house ‘Mighty Current‘, which published salacious gossip books about high-rank officials of the Chinese Communist Party (CCP). Gui was born in China‘s Zhejiang Province and studied history at Beijing University. In 1988 he moved to Sweden and earned a PhD at Gothenburg University. After the Communist Party put down the Tiananmen student protests in 1989, Gui remained in Sweden and became a naturalised citizen. As the political climate relaxed in the 1990s, he returned to China and worked there for a few years, before entering the publishing business in 2012. A camera in his Thai condo showed him on October 17 as he came back home carrying groceries. Shortly afterwards, he drove away together with a man who had been waiting for him in the garage.  Continue reading