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.

Full Text:



ABS (Australian Bureau of Statistics) 2007, 2006 Census of Population and Housing: Media Releases and Fact Sheets 2006. Available at http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/mf/2914.0.55.002/ (Accessed in July 2010).

Aronson, M. & Dyer, B. 2000, Judicial Review of Administrative Action, LBC Information Services, Sydney, Australia.

Bennett, J.M. 2007, George Higinbotham: Third Chief Justice of Victoria 1886-1892, Federation Press, Sydney.

Betts, K. 1988, Ideology and Immigration: Australia 1976 to 1987, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne.

Betts, K. 1997, 'Judicial Activism, Immigration and the One-Child Case', People and Place, vol. 5, no. 3, pp. 19-28.

Birrell, B. 1994, 'The Outcome of the 1 November 1993 Decisions', People and Place, vol. 2, no. 3, pp. 39-46.

Black, R. 1991, 'Refugees and Displaced Persons: Geographical Perspectives and Research Directions', Progress in Human Geography, vol. 15, no. 3, pp. 281-298. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/030913259101500303

Chan, H. 2005, 'Chinese in Australia' in Ember, M. et al. (eds), Encyclopedia of Diasporas: Immigrant and Refugee Cultures around the World, Volume II, Springer, New York, pp. 634-645. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-0-387-29904-4_65

Cooney, S. 1995, The Transformation of Migration Law, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.

Coughlan, J.E. 1996, 'The Transformation in the Characteristics of Chinese Migration to Australia 1982-1993', Asian Profile, vol. 24, no. 2, pp. 99-130.

Coughlan, J.E. 1998, 'The Changing Characteristics of Chinese Migrants to Australia during the 1980s and Early 1990s', In Sinn, E. (ed), The Last Half Century of Chinese Overseas, Hong Kong University Press, Hong Kong, pp. 299-345.

Crock, M. 1995, 'The Peril of the Boat People: Assessing Australia's Responses to the Phenomenon of Border Asylum-Seekers', In Selby, H. (ed), Tomorrow's Law, The Federation Press, Sydney, pp. 28-48.

Crock, M. 1998a, Immigration and Refugee Law in Australia, The Federation Press, Sydney.

Crock, M. 1998b, 'Apart from Us or a Part of Us: Immigrants' Rights, Public Opinion and the Rule of Law', International Journal of Refugee Law, vol. 10, no. 1 & 2, pp. 49-76.

Crock, M. 2004, 'Judging Refugees: The Clash of Power and Institutions in the Development of Australian Refugee Law', Sydney Law Review, vol. 26, pp. 51-73.

Crock, M., Saul, B. & Dastyari, A. 2006, Future Seekers II: Refugee and Irregular Migration in Australia, The Federation Press, Sydney.

Cronin, K. 1993, 'A Culture of Control: An Overview of Immigration Policy-Making', In Jupp, J. & Kabala, M. (eds), The Politics of Australian Immigration, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.

Clyne, M. & Kipp, S. 1999, Pluricentric Languages in an Immigrant Context: Spanish, Arabic and Chinese, Mouton de Gruyter, Berlin. http://dx.doi.org/10.1515/9783110805444

DIEA (Department of Immigration and Ethnic Affairs). 1994, Annual Report 1993-94, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.

DIMA (Department of Immigration and Multicultural Affairs). 1997, Fact Sheet 35: The 13 June 1997 Visa Decisions, Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.

Douglas, R. 2006, Douglas and Jones's Administrative Law, Fifth Edition, The Federation Press, Sydney.

Dow, G.M. 1972, 'Higinbotham, George (1826 - 1892)', In Australian Dictionary of Biography, Melbourne University Press, Carlton, pp. 391-397.

Fitzgerald, J. 2007, Big White Lie: Chinese Australians in White Australia, University of New South Wales Press, Sydney.

Gao, J. 2006, 'Organized International Asylum Seeker Networks: Formation and Utilization by the Chinese Students', International Migration Review, vol. 40, no. 2, pp. 294-317. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1747-7379.2006.00018.x

Gao, J. 2009, 'Lobbying to Stay: The Chinese Students' Campaign to Stay in Australia', International Migration, vol. 47, no. 2, pp. 127-154. http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2435.2009.00515.x

Gao, J. 2010, 'Negotiating State Logic: How Chinese Students Obtained Residence in Australia', Omnes: The Journal of Migration & Society, vol. 1, no. 1, pp. 35-66.

Harris, K. L. & Ryan, J. 1998, 'Chinese Immigration to Australia and South Africa: A Comparative Analysis of Legislative Control', In Sinn, E. (ed), The Last Half Century of Chinese Overseas, Hong Kong University Press, Hong Kong, pp. 373-389.

Ho, C.H. & Coughlan, J.E. 1997, 'The Chinese in Australia: Immigrants from the People's Republic of China, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau', In Coughlan, J. & McNamara, D. (eds.), Asians in Australia: Patterns of Migration and Settlement, Macmillan Education Australia, Melbourne, pp. 120-70.

HREOC (The Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission) 1998, Those who've Come across the Seas: Detention of Unauthorised Arrivals. Australian Government Publishing Service, Canberra.

Jones, G. 2003, 'White Australia, National Identity and Population Change', In Jayasuriya, L. et al. (eds), Legacies of White Australia: Race, Culture and Nation, University of Western Australia Press, Perth, pp. 110-128.

Jose, N. 1995, Chinese Whispers: Cultural Essays, Wakefield Press, Adelaide.

Jupp, J. 2002, From White Australia to Woomera: The Story of Australian Immigration, Cambridge University Press, Melbourne. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9781139195034

Kee, P.K. 1992, 'The Chinese in Australia: A Brief Historical Overview and Contemporary Assessment', In Chinese Association of Victoria: 1982-1992 the First Ten Years, The Chinese Association of Victoria Inc., Melbourne.

Kee, P.K. & Skeldon, R. 2004, 'The Migration and Settlement of Hong Kong Chinese in Australia', In Skeldon, R. (ed), Reluctant Exiles?, M.E. Sharpe, New York.

Kneebone, S. 2010, 'Controlling Migration by Sea: The Australian Case', In Ryan, B. & Mitsilegas, V. (eds.), Extraterritorial Immigration Control: Legal Challenges, Martinus Nijhoff Publishers, Leiden, pp. 347-374. http://dx.doi.org/10.1163/ej.9789004172333.i-441.77

Lake, M. & Reynolds, H. 2008, Drawing the Global Colour Line: White Men's Countries and the International Challenge of Racial Equality, Cambridge University Press, London. http://dx.doi.org/10.1017/CBO9780511805363

Le, M. 1993, 'Reality: The Release of the Isabella Refugees', In Crock, M. (ed), Protection or Punishment: The Detention of Asylum Seekers in Australia, The Federation Press, Sydney, pp. 151-162.

Le, M. 2001, 'Migrants, Refugees and Multiculturalism', Available at http://www.abc.net.au/rn/deakin/stories/s295948.htm (Accessed in July 2010).

Marsic, S. 2000, 'Do Chinese Black Children" Constitute a "Social Group" for the Purposes of the Refugee Convention?', Alternative Law Journal, vol. 25, no. 3, p. 141."

McMillan, J. 2002, 'Judicial Restraint and Activism in Administrative Law', Federal Law Review, vol. 30, no. 2, pp. 335-371.

Oakman, D. 2004, Facing Asia: A History of the Colombo Plan, Pandanus Books, Canberra.

Orleans, L.A. 1988, Chinese Students in America: Policies, Issues, and Numbers, National Academy Press, Washington.

Palfreeman, A.C. 1967, The Administration of the White Australia Policy, Melbourne University Press, Melbourne.

Perry, E. 2001, 'Challenging the Mandate of Heaven: Popular Protest in Modern China', Critical Asian Studies, vol. 33, no. 2, pp. 163180. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14672710122544

Khoo, S. E., Ho, E. and Voigt-Graf, C. 2008, 'Gendered Migration in Oceania: Trends, Policies and Outcomes', Piper. N. (ed.), New Perspectives on Gender and Migration: Livelihood, Rights and Entitlements. Routledge, London, pp. 103-138.

Poynder, N. 1995, 'Recent Implementation of the Refugee Convention in Australia and the Law of Accommodation to International Human Rights Treaties', Australian Journal of Human Rights, vol. 2, no. 1, pp. 75-90.

Rolls, E. C. 1992, Sojourners: The Epic Story of China's Centuries-old Relationship with Australia, University of Queensland Press, Brisbane.

Sackville, R. 2004, 'Refugee Law: The Shifting Balance', Sydney Law Review, vol. 26, no. 1, pp. 37-50.

Schloenhardt, A. 2000, 'Australia and the Boat-People: 25 Years of Unauthorised Arrivals', University of New South Wales Law Journal, vol 23, no. 3, pp. 33-55.

Sun, W.N. 2002, Leaving China: Media, Migration, and Transnational Imagination, Rowman & Littlefield, Lanham.

Viviani, N. 1996, The Indo-Chinese in Australia 1975-1995: From Burnt Boats to Barbecues, Oxford University Press, Melbourne.

Walker, K. 1996, 'The Importance of Being Out: Sexuality and Refugee Status', Sydney Law Review, vol. 18, no. 4, pp. 568-597.


DOI: https://doi.org/10.5130/ccs.v3i1.1786

Share this article: