Politics of a Different Kind: Chinese in Immigration Litigation in the Post White Australia Era

Jia Gao


The first mass Chinese immigration to Australia occurred in the 19th century, with approximately 100,000 Chinese arriving between the 1840s and 1901 (Fitzgerald 2007; Ho 2007), during which questions were raised both in relation to the Chinese rights of migration and settlement in Australia, and the validity of the government's actions against the Chinese. The latter question was in fact considered in the colonial courts (Cronin 1993; Lake and Reynolds 2008). Since then, the Chinese in Australia have never shied away from taking various legal actions, although they are normally seen as people who keep to themselves. Australia abandoned its 'White Australia' policy in 1974, and lately Australia has placed more emphasis on skilled and business migration. As a result, many believe that Chinese migrants have come to Australia under its normal skilled, business or family migration programs, which ignores the fact that a high proportion of them have obtained their chance to stay in Australia directly or indirectly through a series of legal battles. This paper contributes to the discussion of the Chinese in Australian political life by looking at how the Chinese have fought in the Courts in the post-White Australia era in past decades, and the key features of their unique experiences. This is a different type of political activism, characterising the lives of many Australian Chinese, their engagement with the Australian political system, and becoming part of the background of their identity, transnationality, socio-political attitudes and behaviour and many other traits.


Chinese in Australia; Immigration litigation; Asylum-seeking; Politics of residency

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DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5130/ccs.v3i1.1786