CHINESE community leaders will ask the federal government to set up a fund that would acknowledge Australia’s history of racial discrimination against Chinese migrants.

The fund is seen as an alternative to pressing for a formal apology for past anti-Chinese policies, including taxes imposed by colonial governments to deter Chinese migrants.

Similar funds have been set up by Canadian and New Zealand governments, both of which have apologised for mistreatment of Chinese migrants and have histories of racial discrimination similar to Australia’s.

The trust fund proposal is at the nascent stage but has been put to the government in preliminary discussions. Its proponents say it could be used to fund educational and cultural programs and encourage Chinese Australians to engage in public debate.

“We want to light up the past to light up the present,” said Chek Ling, a community activist who raised the idea with Multicultural Affairs Minister Kate Lundy late last year when she was Parliamentary Secretary for Immigration and Multicultural Affairs.

He also raised the prospect of a formal statement in Parliament by the government, acknowledging the contribution of the Chinese community. Mr Ling expected further talks with Senator Lundy’s office.

Senator Lundy did not respond directly when The Sunday Age sought her view on the merits of a trust fund. “It is not current government policy to establish a poll tax trust fund,” her media adviser said.

The proposal emerged from a conference last year of the Chinese Community Council of Australia, which called for a government apology for past racist treatment of Chinese migrants. Mr Ling and other community representatives have since backed away from seeking an apology.

Chinese migrants faced widespread popular prejudice in the 19th century and were victims of violent attacks on the Victorian and New South Wales goldfields. Under public pressure, the then colonial governments introduced laws to restrict Chinese immigration. In 1855, Victoria imposed a £10 poll tax on every Chinese entering the colony. Discrimination was perpetuated with the White Australia Policy after the colonies federated in 1901.

In 2006, the Canadian government formally apologised for the “grave injustice” inflicted on Chinese who were subjected to a similar tax. Canada set up a $C35 million ($A33 million) trust fund to finance cultural and educational projects, and offered reparations to surviving payers of the tax.

New Zealand apologised in 2002 for its treatment of Chinese and set up a $NZ5 million ($A3.8 million) poll tax heritage trust in 2005 to fund historical and cultural projects.
“There are international precedents for a symbolic goodwill trust fund, in recognition of what the poll tax represented,” Mr Ling said.

President of the Chinese community council Anthony Pun said the fund would have a strong focus on educating Australians about their history. This, he said, was preferable to an official apology.

“We need to be able to share with all Australians how Chinese were treated,” Dr Pun said. “We’re not whingers, but we think this needs to be
considered.”

Mr Ling has suggested the fund could be used to revise the way Chinese Australians are portrayed in school curriculums, history books and museums so that they did not simply reflect the European perspectives.

One idea is for a travelling exhibition on the violence known as the Lambing Flat riots in 1860-61, when mobs of white miners attacked Chinese miners to try to force them from the NSW gold fields.

Issues related to the trust fund and the role of Chinese Australians in public life will be the focus of the Chinese community council’s second national conference in Melbourne in August.

Tom Hyland
March 11, 2012
thyland@theage.com.au

華人社區領袖們將呼籲聯邦政府設立專項基金,用以公開承認澳大利亞歷史中針對華人移民種族歧視的不當行為。

設立該基金的要求被視為華人領袖們為迫使聯邦政府對於歷史中由殖民地政府執行的反對華人政策,包括殖民政府為阻止華人移民特別施加的人頭稅,做出正式道歉而另闢蹊徑的結果。 而與澳大利亞有著相似種族歧視歷史的加拿大及新西蘭政府則早已設立類似基金,並對其政府歷史中粗暴對待中國移民的不當行為做出了正式道歉。

設立該信託基金的提議尚在起步階段,但提議者已與政府進行了初步磋商。提議者認為本基金不僅可以資助教育及文化方面的項目還能夠用於鼓勵更多的澳大利亞華人參政議政。

社區活動家Chek Ling就於去年對時任移民及多元文化事務議會秘書,現任多元文化事務部部長的Kate Lundy提出了他的看法。 Ling先生認為:“我們探究過去的目的是為了指明現在的道路。” Ling先生還指出,希望聯邦政府於議會裡發表正式聲明,承認華人的貢獻。

Ling先生也期望能夠與Lundy參議員辦公室取得聯絡,開展進一步的會談。

參議員Lundy並未直接回應由The Sunday Age提出,詢問她對於設立該信託基金的價值有何看法的問題。“建立人頭稅信託基金並不符合政府現行政策, ”而參議員媒體顧問則如是回答媒體。

設立信託基金的提議源自去年澳華社區議會召開的一次會議,該會議旨在要求政府為以往持種族主義態度對待華人移民的行為做出正式道歉。自此以後,Ling先生及其他華人社區代表們則在尋求政府道歉方面有所讓步。

在19世紀時,華人移民不但面臨著普遍流行的偏見,還常常淪為維多利亞州及新南威爾士州 金礦暴力襲擊的受害者。迫於公眾的壓力,當時的殖民地政府甚至還出台了限制華人移民的法令。維多利亞州就於1855年決定對每個進入殖民地的華人都強制徵收10英鎊的人頭稅。 1901年殖民地成立聯邦後,對華人的歧視更是隨著白澳政策而得以延續。

加拿大政府於2006年時則已就其歷史上針對華人移民徵收類似稅收所造成的“嚴重不公”行為做出了正式道歉。而國家也設立了一個三千五百萬加元(折合三千三百萬美元)的信託基金以資助文化和教育項目,並用以支付給倖存的納稅人賠償。

新西蘭政府也於2002年就其對華人移民的不當待遇做出了正式道歉並於2005年設立了一個五百萬紐幣(折合三百八十萬美元)的名為紀念廢除人頭稅信託基金的專項基金以資助歷史及文化項目。

Ling先生指出:“就政府如何公開承認人頭稅的真正意義這一方面而言,設立像徵性信託基金的做法已有國際先例。”

澳華社區議會主席Anthony Pun則表示,該基金的使用將堅定地致力於教育廣大澳洲民眾關於我們自己的歷史。而與政府正式道歉相比,他本人也更傾向於政府採取這個提議。

“我們需要的是能夠讓所有的澳洲民眾知曉華人所遭受的待遇。”Pun博士認為:“我們絕不是幫只會抱怨的人,但我們認為政府的確需要重視此事。”

Ling先生建議該基金可以用於修改現行學校課程、歷史教科書及博物館裡對澳洲華人移民的描述方式,使其不再僅僅反映歐洲視角。

他的想法之一就是舉辦一個以發生在1860年到1861年之間名為藍演灘暴動的暴力事件為主題的流動展覽。在此次事件中白人礦工裡的暴徒們襲擊了華人礦工,並希望通過這種方式迫使他們離開新南威爾士州的金礦。

澳華社區議會第二次全國會議將於今年8月在墨爾本召開,而有關信託基金提議及探討澳洲華人在公共生活中身份方面的問題就將會是本次會議的焦點。

The Age报Tom Hyland
2012年3月11日