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Legal history of Chinese Americans

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Chinese-Americans have been victims of racial discrimination (WP), to the extent of some cases, such as the Chinese Exclusion Act (WP), which remained effective until 1943, where this discrimination has been enabled to the furthest extent possible, by being codified in US law. In 2009, the California legislature passed a resolution to apologize for the historical anti-Chinese legislation. In 2011, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution to apologize for the historical discrimination against Chinese immigrants.

There is no extradition treaty between China and the U.S. or Taiwan and the U.S. It means when a criminal act is committed in China or Taiwan, justice cannot be served if the criminal escapes to the U.S.

The Chinese-Americans are regarded as a “model minority.” They usually do not assert their rights like blacks and other minorities. Even when they are being discriminated against in the work place, they remain quiet and do nothing. According to a study by the Equal Employment Opportunity Council in 2005, 31% of the Chinese-Americans complain of discrimination in the work place, compared to 26% among blacks, but few resort to filing lawsuits.[1]

Eighteenth CenturyEdit

1785 The Beginning of the Chinese AmericansEdit

The beginning of Chinese people in the United States started when three Chinese seamen, by the "Pallas No." (PALLAS) ship, arrived in Wikipedia:Baltimore, Maryland. They were abandoned by the captain and caught by the locals.[2]

Nineteenth CenturyEdit

1839 First Opium War,Convention of Chuenpee (1841),Treaty of Nanking (1842) and the Treaty of the Bogue (1843)Edit

Template:See also Before the First Opium War (WP), the Chinese Qing Wikipedia:Qianlong Emperor believed his was the "heavenly nation", and needed nothing. He wrote a letter to Wikipedia:Queen Victoria to say that China has everything and that there is no need to do business with the United Kingdom. At that time, Britain's trade deficit was huge; however, it stopped when Britain decided to sell opium to China. Since 1750, tens of thousands of boxes of opium entered China. This caused the Chinese addiction to opium, which ruined the Chinese and lured them to buy drugs, leading to the disintegration of their families.

1844 The Treaty of Wanghia, or the Treaty of Peace, Amity, and Commerce, with Tariff of DutiesEdit

1848 California Gold RushEdit

The discovery of gold at Wikipedia:Sutter's Mill started the Wikipedia:California Gold Rush. This brought many people from all over the world including the Chinese into California.

1850 The first and second Chinese residents of CaliforniaEdit

On September 9, California gained its statehood. The first U.S. Wikipedia:Census, taken after California's admission into the union, shows 2 Chinese house servants listed as residents of Los Angeles: Ah Fou and Ah Luce.[3]

1852 Foreign Miners License Tax imposed on Chinese minersEdit

In May 1852, the State of California, against the Chinese miners, passed the Foreign Miners License Tax Law. The tax was 3 yuan per month, when Chinese miners salary was about $6 per month.[3] The purpose of this tax was to protect the White people's jobs. The tax gradually increased until it reached $20 per month. In 1870, this tax law was declared unconstitutional.[4]

1854 People v. HallEdit

1858 California law forbade the entry of Chinese and MongoliansEdit

California passed a law that forbid the entry of the Chinese and Mongolian ethnic people, but the law was immediately sentenced unconstitutional.[5]

1862 California passed the Chinese Police TaxEdit

Chinese police in California, through the collection of taxes from the Chinese Police Tax Act, was passed in order to protect the White workers. This was supposed to help eliminate the Chinese competition, and to deter Chinese immigration to California. Under the Act, the Chinese paid $2.5 U.S. dollars per month as a tax. In 1863, this law was convicted of violating the California Constitution, and the Wikipedia:California Supreme Court deemed it invalid.[6]

1865 Chinese Laborers Helped Construct the Central Pacific RailwayEdit

1866 The Civil Rights Act of 1866Edit

The Wikipedia:Civil Rights Act of 1866 was passed for all who were born in the United States, regardless of race, color, age, or gender. Slaves who were U.S. citizens were also included in this law; however, this law did not protect foreign visitors, diplomats, or Indians. According to this law, employment and rental of racial discrimination are all illegal, but this law does not provide the federal penalties, leading to no help or support for the victims.

1868–1899Edit

  • 1868 The Wikipedia:Burlingame Treaty
  • 1879 California Constitution prohibited the employment of Chinese
  • 1880 The Fisheries Act prohibited the Chinese from engaging in fishery
  • 1882 The Chinese Exclusion Act
  • 1885 Wikipedia:Rock Springs Massacre
  • 1886 Yick Wo v. Hopkins
  • 1888 The Scott Act
  • 1889 Chae Chan Ping v. the United States
  • 1892 The Geary Act
  • 1893 Fong Yue Ting v. United States
  • 1895 Lem Moon Sing v. United States
  • 1898 United States v. Wong Kim Ark
  • 1899 San Francisco Chinatown was Quarantined

Twentieth CenturyEdit

Twenty-first CenturyEdit

  • 2009 Taiwan Legislator Wikipedia:Lee Ching-an resigned for having Dual Citizenship from Taiwan and the U.S.
  • 2009 California apologizes to Chinese Americans for past discrimination
  • 2009 Former Taiwan President Wikipedia:Chen Shui-Bian claimed he was an agent for the U.S. military government
  • 2010 California became a majority-minority state
  • 2011 U.S. Senate Apologized for the Chinese Exclusionary Laws

Template:Multiple issues

Chinese-Americans have been victims of racial discrimination. The notorious Chinese Exclusion Act remained effective until 1943. In 2009, the California legislature passed a resolution to apologize for the historical anti-Chinese legislation. In 2011, the U.S. Senate passed a resolution to apologize for the historical discrimination against Chinese immigrants.

There is no extradition treaty between China and the U.S. or Taiwan and the U.S. It means when a criminal act is committed in China or Taiwan, justice cannot be served if the criminal escapes to the U.S.

The Chinese-Americans are regarded as a “model minority.” They usually don’t assert their rights like blacks and other minorities. Even when they are being discriminated against in the work place, they remain quiet and do nothing. According to a study by the Equal Employment Opportunity Council in 2005, 31% of the Chinese-Americans complain of discrimination in the work place, compared to 26% among blacks, but few resort to filing lawsuits.[7]

Eighteenth CenturyEdit

Nineteenth Century Edit

Twentieth Century Edit

Twentyfirst Century Edit


1785 The Beginning of the Chinese AmericansEdit

The beginning of Chinese people in the United States started when three Chinese seamen, by the "Pallas No." (PALLAS) ship, arrived in Baltimore, Maryland. They were abandoned by the captain and caught by the locals.[8]

1840 Opium war,Chuanbi draft treaty,Treaty of Nanjing and Treaty of BoguiEdit

It might have been the most arrogant boast between national leaders in history:

In 1793, the Qing emperor, Qianlong, sent a letter to the British monarch, King George III in which he unblushingly bragged that China had everything it needed and no interest in conducting business with the crown.[9]Ironically, Qianlong’s hubris, far from keeping China insulated from the West, ultimately led to its first exposure to Western law, at considerable loss to China.

From the Chinese perspective, Qianlong’s contention was no idle boast. The Chinese had always referred to their country as “The Heavenly Kingdom.” China was so self-centered that the Chinese ideogram for the country is a combination of the word for “center” and “country.” Ancient Chinese did not refer to their country as “China,” but as “Chang Kuo,” “the Central Nation.” So when Qianlong told the British to pound sand with their offer of trade, he was neither boasting nor arrogant. From the Chinese perspective, he was simply stating fact.

It was bad timing. The British were strapped for cash. They had just finished a costly war in the North America, the so-called War of Revolution for the United States.[10]

They were about to embark on more than two decades of war with France, which had just started its own revolution and would soon embrace the power-hungry Napoleon Bonaparte. The British faced a mounting deficit in its trade with China. The solution was elementary: Hook the Chinese on opium, and then become their dealers.

A ready market Opium had been a popular commodity for the West to trade with China for decades, but only on a small scale, because opium use was illegal and considered immoral by the Chinese. That didn’t stop merchants from the Netherlands, Spain, Portugal and England from using opium in their bartering.

Two factors in the late 18th century accelerated opium’s popularity as an exchange commodity. China imposed severe restrictions on trade, directing it to the port city of Canton (Guangzhou) and keeping import tariffs high. Under this Canton system, China demanded kickbacks and bribes for the right to trade in China. Secondly, China preferred to receive silver in exchange for Chinese goods.

The rewards were still very profitable for Western merchants, whose ships braved the perilous sea crossings and navigated Byzantine Chinese bureaucracy to bring home silk, porcelain, furniture, lacquer, carved ivory and jewelry to Westerners eager for treasures from the Orient. England especially craved tea, its national beverage.

The trade created a deficit for England, however, because it was exchanging silver for tea. So the British started trading in opium. The amount of opium entering China increased from an estimated 15 tons in 1730 to 75 tons in 1773. The contraband was shipped in chests containing 150 pounds of opium and smuggled into the country along the deserted coastline or dropped off on the Pearl River on the way to Guangzhou.

American merchants joined the China trade in 1784, when the first American merchant vessel, Empress of China, sailed from New York to Canton. The Americans brought ginseng from the Appalachian mountains, sea otter pelts from the Pacific Northwest and Spanish bullion from Latin America. Trade was unregulated and unofficial, as dictated by the Canton system.

After the War of 1812, Americans joined their British counterparts in using opium as the trading commodity of choice. The Chinese knew from early on that opium was infecting their society. Thousands of people abandoned any motivation except to smoke opium. Entire families were devastated. The Qianlong emperor repeatedly issued edicts banning opium sale and use, to no effect.

The British East India Company, the quasi-governmental agency overseeing British foreign trade, made opium trading even more efficient. It created an elaborate exchange system, buying tea in Canton on credit, selling opium from Turkey in Calcutta, then smuggling the opium in British ships into China. By 1830, China was importing 900 tons of opium a year.

The emperor strikes back

The Qing dynasty emperor issued another edict banning the opium trade in 1799. It was ignored. The Qing court was in Beijing in the north, far from the opium trading and consumption in the south. The Qing leaders were ambivalent about the prohibition themselves. The government recognized that opium could be a revenue source if it was taxed. By the 1830s, members of court were using opium, including some members of the dynastic family.

By 1838, opium imports to China had reached 1,400 tons a year. In 1838, Emperor Daoguang discovered that members of the royal family were addicted to opium. That was the last straw. Daoguang appointed Lin ZeXu[11] as the Imperial Commissioner to stop the importation and the smoking of opium.

In the Qing Dynasty Court, Lin ZeXu was the most outspoken officer against the opium trade. He asked for a total ban on opium smoking and announced that anyone who did not quit smoking within one year would be put to death. Lin arrived in Guangzhou in March 1839 and immediately sent a strong message that he meant business. He demanded foreign traders turn in all the opium they not yet sold, and he asked them to sign an agreement guaranteeing they would never import opium to China again. Foreign merchants found it hard to take Lin seriously. They regarded Chinese officials as corrupt and easily bribed. Considering their experience with Chinese traders, they could hardly be blamed.

The foreigners were surprised when Lin called their bluff. He had their offices surrounded by troops, virtually imprisoning them inside their own factories in Guangzhou. Lin’s troops confiscated more than 20,000 boxes of opium - more than 1,400 tons. Lin ordered the opium to be burned on the Humen Beach on June 3. The fire lasted more than 40 days. From then on, June 3 is celebrated in China as Anti-Smoking Day.[12]

British response

British ambassador Charles Elliott had a firestorm on his hands. He had been among those who were locked inside Guangzhou factories by Chinese troops. He had also tried to negotiate a settlement, asking British merchants to relinquish their opium, for which the British crown would compensate them. But the boarding of British ships and destruction of British property exacerbated the conflict.

Elliott immediately ordered a halt to all trade with China and recalled all British overseas subjects from Guangzhou to Macau. The Macau government refused to guarantee their safety, so Elliott had them moved to Hong Kong. On June 20, 1839, drunken British sailors and villagers of Tsim Sha Tsui confronted each other. As a result, villager Lin Weixi was killed.

Although Elliot agreed to compensate the families of the deceased, he refused to hand over the sailors, who were supposed to pay compensation for the life of the deceased according the “Qing Law.” Elliot further claimed to have the consular jurisdiction to try the accused. On August 12, in a hearing on board a British ship, Elliot gave the five killers a light punishment. They were sent home to England. The Qing government was not informed about the trial until later.

LIn had already sent a letter to Queen Victoria, demanding an end to the opium trade, asserting Chinese right to terminate it and condemning British moral corruption in promoting the opium trade. It is not known whether the queen ever received Lin’s letter. Lin checked "The Law of Nations,” and concluded that Elliot did not have consular jurisdiction. So, on August 15, 1839, he announced the expulsion of Elliot from China and forbade the Chinese people from providing food and daily necessities to the British. In addition, he had the British ships blockaded.

Elliot began negotiating with Lin on September 5. He demanded that the ban be lifted, that water and food be supplied and that trade relations be normalized. He was rejected. At 2 p.m. on that day, Elliot issued an ultimatum, which was again ignored by Lin. The British opened fire on Chinese ships and the first Opium War had officially started.[13]

Misfortunes of war

When the news reached England, the Parliament was shocked. It was inconceivable that China would provoke a war with the world’s mightiest naval power. On October 1, Parliament voted to declare war against China and to send in the troops.

Even so, communications took time in the 18th century. Although the British troops were dispatched from India, they didn’t arrive in China until June 1840. By then, the Qing government was heavily guarding the Guangdong area, but Elliot led his army north and easily captured Dingha, Consistently anticipating the movements of the Chinese defenders, his troops arrived in DaGuKo on August 11. Emperor Daoguang was taken by surprise. He dismissed Lin and appointed Zhili Governor Qi Shan to initiate peace talks.

On November 29 Qi Shan arrived in Guangzhou, where he met with the British consul. Elliot gave him a 14-point demand, including re-opening the commercial ports, compensation for the burnt opium, payment for the war expenses, and the signing of agreements for tariffs and extraterritoriality.

Emperor Daoguang was furious when he heard the demands. On January 20, 1841, he commanded Qi Shan to halt the negotiations and prepare for war. Elliot had anticipated this. On January 7, British troops had captured Fort Kok and Fort Tai Kok, On January 20, he drew up the "Convention of Chuanbi.[14]“ It asked China to compensate the British government in the amount of six million silver dollars and cede Hong Kong.

On January 21, Elliot unilaterally announced the "Convention of Chuanbi," and on January 26, he secretly sent HMS Sulphur to seize Hong Kong and raise the British flag. Qi Shan was removed from his post pending an investigation. Emperor Daoguang formally declared war against England on January 27, and on February 26, Elliot captured Humen. On the 27th, he attacked Wuyuan, and by March 3, Guangzhou was under siege. With the American consulate acting as intermediary, Britain and China came to an agreement on March 20.

Emperor Daoguang was very upset, and he reassigned Yi Shan as "Jing Ni General" to go to the aid of Guangdong. On May 10, Yi Shan launched an attack on the British army. Elliot counterattacked. On May 22, the British bombed Guangzhou. The Qing soldiers were defeated. On May 27, Yi Shan begged to surrender.

The British had outflanked the Chinese at every turn, militarily and diplomatically, and had laid the groundwork for imposing a one-sided peace. Yet abruptly and completely unexpectedly, Elliot was dismissed by the British government for "failing to adhere to all the demands of the British government" and for "insubordination." After he was called back to London, he realized that his superiors were dissatisfied with the Chuanbi Convention because they believed Britain could have gotten more from China.

This time London sent Sir Henry Pottinger as the British plenipotentiary. In August 1841, British restarted the war. China was consistently overmatched in the Opium War. The British had the advantage of better military technology, including newly developed muskets that fired more quickly and accurately than their predecessors. The British also had mobile and heavily armed gunships. The Chinese had used cannon for generations, but were not as mobile nor as accurate. They were quickly put on the defensive.

In August 1841, the British soldiers attacked and occupied Xiamen and Dinghai. In August 1842, Zhenjiang, Wusong were also occupied by the British. Finally, the British army reached Nanjing. In defeat, the Qing government was forced to sign the Nanjing Treaty,[15] ending the First Opium War.

In 1843, China was forced to sign the Treaty of Bogui with Britain. It was the second in a series of “Unequal Treaties.[16]

1844 The Treaty of Wanghia, or the Treaty of Peace, Amity, and Commerce, with Tariff of DutiesEdit

In July 1844, when the United States learned that Britain had signed the Treaty of Nanjing, it wanted the same preferential treatment. President Zachary Taylor appointed Congressman Cable Cushing to be the Envoy Extraordinary and Minister Plenipotentiary of the United States to China and forced China to sign the Treaty of Wanghia, also known as the “Treaty of Peace, Amity and Commerce, with Tariff of Duties[17]." It was the first unequal treaty between China and the United States. The Treaty had 34 articles. They essentially stated that the United States enjoyed the same most- favored-nation (MFN) status as Britain. The treaty also stipulated that, should China offer any advantages to any other nation, the United States would enjoy the same favors.

Some of the specific provisions of the Wanghia treaty included:

  1. Americans were not subject to the jurisdiction of China.
  2. When Americans committed crimes in China, only the U.S. Embassy officials had the right to arrest, try and punish them for the crimes under the U.S. laws.
  3. American military ships would have free access to five commercial ports in China: Guangzhou, Fuzhou, Xiamen, Ningbo, and Shanghai.
  4. Americans could buy real estate in those five ports to build churches, hospitals, and cemeteries.
  5. The Wanghia Treaty repealed the prohibition against foreigners learning Chinese.
  6. It forbade trafficking in opium.

This treaty could be amended and renegotiated after 12 years. Article 34 is believed to be the cause for the Second Opium War.

Consequences for China foreign policy

The "Wanghia Treaty" totally destroyed China's territorial sovereignty, judicial sovereignty, and tariff sovereignty. It is more complete in all aspects than the Treaty of Nanjing and became a model for the future Sino-French Treaty of Huangpu and other unequal treaties. Ironically, free foreign trade also enabled the five commercial ports to enjoy rapid economic development. Those ports have since become the most developed cities in China.

A hundred years later, with the development of international affairs, China became an ally of the United Kingdom, the United States, and the Soviet Union in the Second World War against Japan, Germany, and Italy. On January 1, 1942 China signed the "United Nations House Joint Declaration "Proclamation of United Nations Charter and Statute of the International Court of Justice” in Washington with 26 other countries[18].

General Chiang Kai-Shek wrote in his diary, "China's being one of the signatories in the Joint Declaration is very significant. President Roosevelt remarked to Sung Zi-Wen that he welcomed China’s joining with the four most powerful countries in the world. I am humbled by that remark. After the publication of the Joint Declaration with more than 20 other countries, China,the United States,the United Kingdom and the Soviet Union are now the center of the anti-aggression force and thus have become one of the most powerful countries in the world. China’s reputation and standing, in fact, are unprecedented in the histor[19].”

On January 11, 1943, China, the United States, and the United Kingdom signed the "Sino-U.S. New Testament[20]" and the "Sino-English New Testament[21]" to abolished the unequal treaties of more than a century, thus ending the foreign powers’ consular jurisdiction, special legal jurisdiction in the commercial ports, the power to station military power in the embassies and along some routes of the railways, privileges to trade in the coastal cities, as well as inland navigation rights and other privileges. "A hundred years of humiliation is being washed away in one day,” Chiang Kei-Shek wrote in his diary[19].

1848 California Gold RushEdit

The discovery of gold at Sutter's Mill started the California gold rush. This brought many people from all over the world including the Chinese into California.

On January 24, 1848, James Marshall discovered gold at Sutters Mill at Colma, California. The news spread like fire, provoking a stampede of would-be miners from the entire world. People from as far away as Latin America, Europe, and China rushed to California. The peak of the migration occurred in 1849, when an estimated 80,000 people invaded the Sierra Nevada foothills to seek their fortunes in gold. They were called 49ers. Since then, the name has conveyed a spirit of adventure and discovery, and has been adopted by many groups and institutions in the Golden State, including the famous NFL franchise in San Francisco[22].

Competition among the miners was fierce, and still they flooded into California from all over the world. Cities arose overnight in the gold country. Few miners struck it rich, but some merchants did, by selling supplies and tools to the new immigrants. San Francisco, the entry point for most of the migration, became a boomtown.

The Gold Rush lasted just a few years. Even with miners using every method to coax, scrape and wrangle the gold from the Sierra foothills, the principal discoveries occurred in the early years. The peak of gold taken from California was in 1853, and it declined sharply after that. By then, however, California’s fortune had been made. From a newly acquired territory in 1848 with few American residents, California achieved statehood in 1850, decades before it would have had the gold rush not accelerated its population growth.

Americans were not about to share their wealth without a fight. Local American laborers resented their competitors and tried to force out the foreign workers. The California legislature accommodated the anti-foreign sentiment by passing legislation that instituted the Foreign Miners’ Tax. Local laborers attacked foreign miners, especially those from Latin America and China. Chinese were easy targets. They dressed and looked different and spoke a different language. Those differences were enough to increase hostility, especially among whites who were frustrated by their own failure to strike it rich.

Americans also resented the sheer volume of the Chinese influx. In 1849, there were only a few hundred Chinese in California. By 1852, there were more than 20,000 in San Francisco alone. On September 9,1850, California gained statehood. The first census taken after statehood recorded two Chinese house servants listed as residents of Los Angeles: Ah Fou and Ah Luce[23][24]

1850 The first and second Chinese residents of CaliforniaEdit

On September 9, California gained its statehood. The first U.S. Census, taken after California's admission into the union, shows 2 Chinese house servants listed as residents of Los Angeles: Ah Fou and Ah Luce.[3]

1852 First law suit filed by Chinese Americans Edit

In August 1852, Alta California Daily, a 19th-century San Francisco newspaper, reported that the city's most well-known madame, Ah Toy, was planning to sue the leader of the infamous Chinese gang, "Four Counties.” The leader’s name was Yee Ah Tye. Ah Toy accused Yee Ah Tye of trying to extort her, demanding her prostitutes pay him for protection and seeking a portion of the madame’s business[25].

The Alta California Daily enjoyed the spectacle of two Chinese embroiled in a court battle. "Ah Toy is smarter than Yee Ah Tye; she threatened to sue him," one account gleefully reported. "Ah Toy has learned a thing or two as she has lived under the American flag for three years. With all the time she has been breathing the air of the Republic, she should not be so easily deceived. Moreover, she lives near the police station. She knows where to find shelter. She herself had appeared as a defendant at least fifty times before the judge."

The report predicted that the overmatched Ah Tye had better be careful lest he be incarcerated. The prediction was prescient. A year later, Yee Ah Tye was indeed dumped in the lock-up, this time for assault and grand larceny.


Chinese legal rights suppressed

Yee Ah Tye’s history was instructive regarding the experience of Chinese immigrants in the Gold Rush. When he was about 20 years old, he sailed on a Chinese junk from his native Guangdong to.San Francisco. He was later described in the newspaper as a “petty despot,” but his first night in America he spent huddled in a doorway. He had learned English in Hong Kong and soon rose to leadership in the Sze Yup crime organization.

Sze Yup was among the Chinese organizations that arose to offer support to the new Chinese immigrants. Its representatives met the newcomers from China at the docks, found them a place to stay, offered them jobs or outfitted them for the mines. Like other immigrant organizations for other nationalities throughout American history, they provided a vital service for people arriving alone in a strange land with no knowledge of the language or culture and little support from family or social systems.

Like other organizations, Sze Yup demanded loyalty. The Chinese factions sometimes inflicted punishment on those unwilling to comply, including floggings, imprisonment and physical torture.


Suppression of immigrants

Support for the new immigrants by organizations such as Sze Yup became increasingly necessary as the new state of California enacted anti-immigrant measure to protect its own.


Yee Ah Tye, the would-be extorter of San Francisco Madame Ah Toy, became a partner in a store called Hop Sing in La Porte. By 1866 it was the richest Chinese store in that town, with a value of $1,500.

Only a few Chinese women came to the United States before 1880, but many of those who did served as prostitutes for people like Ah Toy. Upon arrival, they were examined and sold for between $300 and $ 3,000 to brothel owners or wealthy Chinese seeking a mistress.

Removal of legal rights

As for Ah Toy, her attempt to exact justice from her tormentor was short-circuited by the American judicial system.

In 1854, in the United States v Hall, the Supreme Court ruled that Chinese had no right to testify. Ah Toy’s lawsuit evaporated. The Hall case had consequences that extended far beyond Ah Toy’s aspirations for justice.[26]

1852 California Imposed Foreign Miners License Tax Edit

In May 1852, California imposed the Foreign Miners’ License Tax.[27] Like all anti-immigrant measures, the title made it sound as if it was designed to protect residents from exploitation by newcomers, but it was aimed at a specific group. Chinese miners had to pay $3 per person, per month, at a time when their salary was about $6 per person, per month. It was the second tax imposed on immigrant labor in two years.

The tax was designed to protect the employment opportunities for white miners. The Foreign Miners’ tax increased year by year until it reached $20 per month.

In 1870, it was declared unconstitutional[28] . By that time, there were 63,000 Chinese in the United States, three-quarters of them in California. That year, Chinese miners contributed more than $5 million to the state's treasury through the Foreign Miners Tax, almost one quarter of the state's revenue.

The foreign miners’ tax discouraged Chinese immigrants from entering that profession.[29] Chinese men opted for other occupations and businesses - laundries, domestic service, groceries and supplies and later, railroad construction. Particularly successful were Chinese who opened supply stores, selling hardware, mining equipment, camp supplies and the like.

1854 People v. HallEdit

George W. Hall was a white man convicted of murdering Chinese miner Ling Sing in Nevada. Three Chinese miners testified against him. Hall was sentenced to death. The California Supreme Court overturned Hall’s conviction. He was subsequently acquitted.[30]

The court ruled that testimony by a Chinese person against a white person was invalid, reflecting a provision already in effect against Africans and Native Americans. It extended the provision of the California Code of Criminal Procedure that provided that blacks, mulattoes and Indians were not permitted to offer testimony against whites.[31]

After this case, the term "Indians" included the Chinese; "blacks" were defined to include all non-whites.

The court’s majority opinion was delivered by California Supreme Court Justice Charles J. Murray. He wrote that the Chinese race was inferior and limited in intellectual development. Their languages, opinions, color and physical attributes were very different from whites. Chinese were not entitled to be witnesses to terminate the lives of any American citizen. They also had no right to participate in U.S. government affairs. The ruling made it impossible to convict any individual of crimes against a Chinese person.

The consequences of this ruling soon became manifest: Acts of violence by whites against Chinese could not be prosecuted and were committed with impunity. The ruling likely contributed to the 1877 anti-Chinese riots in San Francisco[32].

In 1877, thousands of white laborers gathered in front of the San Francisco Municipal Government building to protest the reduction of their wages by the Union Pacific railroad. They also directed insulting remarks at the Chinese, because Chinese workers were willing to accept the lower wages.

More than 500 people gathered in an attempt to burn down Chinatown. At that time, the San Francisco police force consisted of only 150 people. Thirty police officers on horses went from one Chinese laundry to another in an attempt to stop the mob from setting fire to their buildings. Finally, the police organized 5,000 volunteers armed with axes. They helped to expel the mob and successfully protected Chinatown from ruins. The Union Pacific eventually gave up its plan to cut wages.

In 1873, the California Code of Civil Procedure was modified. It repealed the provision that forbade all non-whites from testifying against whites in court.[33]

1858 California law forbade the entry of Chinese and MongoliansEdit

California passed a law that forbid the entry of the Chinese and Mongolian ethnic people, but the law was immediately sentenced unconstitutional.[5]

1862 California passed the Chinese Police TaxEdit

Attempts continued to suppress Chinese in the legal system. In 1862, California enacted the Chinese Police Tax. Its purpose was to protect white workers from competition from the Chinese and to deter the Chinese from immigrating to California.

The description of the law made clear its intent: “An act to protect free white labor against competition with Chinese coolie labor, and to discourage the immigration of the Chinese into the state of California.” Under the law, each Chinese worker had to pay $2.50 per month[34] in Police Tax. The California Supreme Court soon declared it unconstitutional.

In every way it could, California discouraged Chinese from competing with whites in the employment marketplace[35] . And then came the railroad.

1865 Chinese Laborers Helped Construct the Central Pacific RailwayEdit

Transformed by rail

The Transcontinental Railroad, or Pacific Railway, was the world's first transcontinental railroad and was considered one of the seven industrial wonders of the world. It ran more than 1,500 miles from Council Bluffs, Iowa/Omaha, Nebraska to Sacramento California. When linked with other railroads, it created one continuous rail line from New York City to San Francisco Bay.

The Transcontinental Railroad transformed American transportation and commerce.

Before it was built, travel from East to West Coasts via South America took six months by sea. Travel across the United States overland by stagecoach and wagon train was just as long but more dangerous because of exposure to Indian attacks, severe weather and the harsh terrain.

The United States government realized that to promote economic development, the transportation system had to be improved. In 1862, President Abraham Lincoln signed the first act to build the Pacific Railway. Construction was undertaken by two companies that both competed and collaborated with each other: the Union Pacific Railroad and Central Pacific Railroad.

The Union Pacific started at Council Bluffs and worked its way west for 1,067 miles. Because of the shortage of workers during the American Civil War, the Union Pacific didn’t begin work until 1865, and then it employed Civil War veterans, both Union and Confederate, and Irish immigrants who were fleeing the potato famines in their country in the 1860s. The sections of line in Utah were built almost exclusively by Mormons, because their founder, Brigham Young, recognized the value of a modern transportation line.

In Sacramento, the Central Pacific started work immediately in 1862 and pushed east. At 690 miles[36], it would have the shorter route, but it would have the far more difficult task of the two companies, daunted by North America’s steepest mountain range. In just the first 100 miles, the Central Pacific route rose from nearly sea level at Sacramento to about 7,000 feet above sea level in the Sierra Nevada[37].

By 1865, the work had progressed only 50 miles. The Central Pacific was having difficulty keeping workers. The CP’s construction superintendent, J.H. Strobridge, demanded 5,000 workers for the steep and demanding work. The most he could muster at any point in early 1865 was just 800 men[38].

One of Central Pacific’s executives, E.B. Crocker, raiesd the prospect of hiring Chinese laborers. The idea had precedent. Chinese workers had contributed to the California Central Railroad between Sacramento and Marysville and had also worked on the San Jose Railroad. Excluded from most professions, and taxed if they wanted to work the gold fields, Chinese gravitated to the manual labor needed for rail building.

Strobridge at first refused to hire Chinese labor. He thought they were unreliable and difficult to supervise[39]. But events made him change his mind. Faced with an acute labor shortage and mounting deadlines, Strobridge gave in. The first 50 Chinese laborers started working on the Central Pacific Railroad line in February 1865. They were regarded with suspicion because of their small stature and strange ways. But they proved to be reliable and hardworking. They also endured horrendous working conditions - cramped quarters, dangerous explosives, harsh weather - that white laborers would not tolerate.

A willing work force

The Chinese were such a good fit with railroad building that Strobridge reversed his previous estimation of the value of Chinese labor and immediately hired another 50 workers. They worked out so well that he wanted to hire even more.

The American labor system had systematically excluded Chinese from participation up to that point. But where there is money to be made, a way will be found. Chinese labor was in such demand that contractors were dispatched to China to recruit Chinese labor on a large scale. By fall of 1865, Strobridge had hired 3,000 Chinese. At its peak, more than 16,000 Chinese, 90 percent of the work force, were working on the Central Pacific line.

Most of the Chinese laborers came from Guangdong and Fujian. Although the railroad companies paid low wages, and the working conditions were worse than harsh, because they faced unbearable poverty in China, Chinese laborers were willing to cross the ocean to earn a living.

Working abroad was an attractive alternative for many impoverished Chinese farmers, who at that time earned about $1 a month. Chinese workers on the Central Pacific earned $26 a month[40]. It was still far less the $50 a month earned by whites, and Chinese had to pay their own room and board, supposedly because of their separate dietary needs. But Chinese workers were thrifty. California newspapers reported that a Chinese rail worker could save $13 per month. With luck, after two years or so, he could save $400 and return to China as a rich peasant. Or he could invest the money to open a laundry, restaurant, and even lease land for farming. Faced with that economic equation, it was not difficult to find tens of thousands of Chinese willing to accept the challenge to emigrate to the United States for a better opportunity.

Enduring hardship

Groups of Chinese laborers embarked on a voyage of more than 100 days to America. According to the relevant historical records, their vessels were loaded to capacity, because the owners of those vessels cared only about profits. The cabins were laminated together, leaving only a foot of space per person. Hundreds of Chinese workers huddled like sardines in the crowded cabins, suffering the turbulent rocking of storms. "They were stacked side by side on their knees during the day, and crossed their legs when sleeping at night." Many died because of suffocation, thirst, starvation and illness, or they were beaten to death or committed suicide.

According to the historical records, four vessels carried a total of 2,523 Chinese workers to the U.S., and 1,620 of them died. The mortality rate was as high as 64 percent. Thus, those vessels were called the "floating hell,[41] " and the journeys, "Inferno.” Those hardships were only a prelude to work on the railroad. The Chinese were presented with the most difficult work on the rail construction project. They delved deep into the Sierra to carve out tunnels for the rail lines. They clung to precipices to chip away at the granite of sheer mountain faces. They wedged into tiny spaces to gouge out inches of rock at a time.

Most of the work was done with shovels, picks, axes, black powder and wheel barrows. The Chinese proved adept at operating in tight spaces, whether tunneling deep into the earth or clinging to narrow foot paths high above mountain ravines. Supervisors would dangle Chinese workers in baskets over the edge of cliffs, where the workers would chisel out a tiny groove, insert gunpowder and light it, whereupon the workers above would quickly haul the man up before the explosion.

In the winter of 1866, Chinese laborers began to take on the project's biggest challenge – the Sierra Ridge channel. Its lower part was made up of 1,000 feet of vertical smooth cliffs[42].

Workers dug a total of 15 tunnels through the Sierra, some of them thousands of feet long, the longest 1,659 feet. The work was extremely dangerous, subject to explosions, rock slides and tunnel collapses. In one incident, 15 Chinese workers lost their lives in an explosion. In another two dozen were buried for two days before they were excavated. Some of the rescued did not survive.

The winter of 1866 was one of the harshest on record, with huge snowstorms, creating avalanches, rock and snow slides and tunnel collapses. The Chinese lived out of sight of the sky for months at a time, burrowed beneath massive snow drifts and living and working in a labyrinth of tunnels hollowed out of the snow. Progress of the road building averaged about one foot a day.

Suited to the task

The Chinese continued to be remarkably adapted to the work. They worked in teams of 12 to 30 men, usually overseen by a white foreman. A head man kept records of their work, and wages were divided equally. One person was appointed cook, and the Chinese maintained their own diets - mostly dried fish, rice and vegetables - and drank lukewarm tea rather than gulping cold water as the white workers did. The Chinese were much more durable than the white workers - who subsisted on beans, beef or pork, bread, butter and potatoes - and maintained better health. Rail workers toiled from sunrise to sunset, sometimes entirely underground.

In addition to the environmental and engineering challenges, there were other hardships, including wage inequality, unequal taxation, and wave after wave of anti-Chinese actions.

In June 1867, 2,000 Pacific Railroad tunnel laborers went on strike, demanding equal pay, less working hours, equality, and human dignity. They called off their strike after a week, but did earn some concessions. Wages increased to $40 per month (although still much less than white laborers) and the eight-hour work rotation inside the tunnel was implemented.[43]

Although the first Chinese workers’ strike failed it established a precedent: Thereafter when Chinese workers faced low wages and other oppression, they would use the strike as a tool of resistance. Need for Chinese labor increased even as the rail line inched across the Sierra. The labor shortage was one of the factors that encouraged the United States to facilitate immigration from China through the Burlingame Treaty[44]

.

Mission accomplished

The Transcontinental Railroad was completed in 1869 with the driving of the Golden Spike at Promontory Summit, Utah. Chinese crews completed one final feat of labor as the Central Pacific raced across the Great American Basin into Utah. As both companies came closer together in western Utah, spirited competition over which crews were faster developed between the Central Pacific and the Union Pacific. When the Union Pacific’s Irish workers laid down six miles of track through Utah in a day, the Central Pacific’s Chinese gangs responded with seven miles.

Newspaper accounts reported that Charles Crocker, construction boss of the Central Pacific, wagered $10,000 that his Chinese crews could lay 10 miles of track in a day. The bet was reportedly covered by Union Pacific Vice-President Thomas C. Durant.

Crocker’s faith in his “Celestials,” as Chinese laborers were called, was rewarded. On April 18, 1869, with officials from both railroad companies observing, along with correspondents from newspapers and Union Pacific workers, the Chinese gangs laid 10 miles, 56 feet of track in less than 12 hours, a feat that has never been equaled. A sign was erected at the east end of the stretch, a message to passing trains that stood for decades in the desert of Utah.

Despite their contribution, when the Golden Spike was driven at Promontory Summit, the many historical photos of the event show only one Chinese in attendance, helping to lay one of the final ties. Historical records are very clear: the Pacific Railway was paved with Chinese life and labor.

"Below each sleeper, there are a Chinese laborer’s bones[45]." California Gov. Leland Stanford, also first president of the Central Pacific, said in his report to U.S. President Andrew Johnson on October 10, 1865: "As a class they are quiet, peaceable, patient, industrious and economical. Ready and apt to learn all the different kinds of work required in railroad building, they soon became as efficient as the white laborers... “

With the railroad completed, need for Chinese labor evaporated. The Americans had gotten their work out of the Celestials and had no further need for them.

Shortly after 1869, the United States enacted one measure after another to repress Chinese rights, status and immigration[46] [47] .

1866 The Civil Rights Act of 1866Edit

The Civil Rights Act of 1866 was passed for all who were born in the United States, regardless of race, color, age, or gender. Slaves who were U.S. citizens were also included in this law; however, this law did not protect foreign visitors, diplomats, or Indians. According to this law, employment and rental of racial discrimination are all illegal, but this law does not provide the federal penalties, leading to no help or support for the victims.


1868 Burlingame Treaty Edit

China and the United States signed Burlingame Treaty, also known as the Burlingame-Seward Treaty, in 1868.The treaty acknowledged that citizens of either country could immigrate to the other country and receive equal treatment.

Some of the specific provisions of the Burligame Treat were:

● Citizens of either country when present in the other country would not be oppressed, abused or harshly suppressed because of their different religious beliefs.

● Neither country would forbid its citizens from trading with the citizens of the other country or from travelling to and residing permanently or becoming citizens of the other country.

● Both countries would treat citizens of the other country as the citizens of a "most favored nation.”

● Citizens of either country could attend the public schools of the other country or set up schools in the other country[48].


This treaty encouraged Chinese immigration to the United States. From the beginning, the treaty was unpopular in America. It was bitterly opposed by the Congress, and President Rutherford B. Hayes was forced to send diplomat James Burrill Angell to China in 1880 to renegotiate its terms.

Tolerance of Chinese immigration in the United States was short-lived. The Burlingame Treaty was later amended to halt, but not prohibit, Chinese immigration. It again acknowledged that the U.S. government had the duty to protect Chinese immigrants already in the U.S. The Treaty was repealed after the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act in 1882[44] .


The Page Act of 1875 and the Case of 22 Lewd Chinese Women Edit

Persecution of Chinese living in the United States was only part of the strategy to suppress the Chinese in America. Preventing Chinese from entering the United States was central to the strategy. It was accomplished not with one fell stroke but with a series of acts and policies explained as necessary to protect the nation against the invasion of corrupting influences. As with any officially sanctioned attempt to prevent a group from entering the country, the prohibitions were explained as necessary to keep out “undesirables.” They included criminals, persons of low moral character, unskilled and uneducated or those who would be deemed to be a strain on society. As it turned out, the first target was women. The Chinese population living in the United States by 1870 was overwhelmingly male. They had come to America as laborers in two great waves – the first group seeking “Gold Mountain” in the 1850s, the second building the seventh industrial wonder of the world, the Pacific Railway, in the 1860s.

With few Chinese women available for marriage, many enlisted the services of prostitutes, and the image of the Chinese woman as prostitute became prevalent. Anti-immigration interests conveniently seized on this perception. Before the exclusion of women was accomplished by statute, however, it was tested in court, by the famous case of the 22 Lewd Chinese Women.

On Monday, Aug. 29, 1874, Rudolph Piotrowski (himself an immigrant, from Poland), boarded the American steamer Japan, recently docked in San Francisco harbor, and inspected its passengers. The Japan had set out from Hong Kong. Nearly all its 600 passengers were Chinese. Piotrowski determined that 22 female passengers were “lewd” (essentially prostitutes) because they were traveling without husbands or children. They were ordered returned to Hong Kong, and the ship’s master was ordered to pay a $500 fine for each of them. The next day, the 22 women were in court, being defended by a lawyer no doubt arranged by local Chinese merchants. A four-day trial ensued, in which the women histrionically testified that they were not prostitutes but married women with husbands in either China or the United States.

Meanwhile the court officers argued over the definition of “lewdness” and whether the clothing and appearance of the Chinese women constituted sufficient evidence to establish their moral character or intentions. The case was a circus, with “expert” witnesses testifying about the status and behavior of women in China as defined by their clothing and living circumstances.

In the end, the women lost their case, as Judge Robert F. Morrison determined that the women were indeed “lewd” and that the state had a right to protect itself from the incursion of people of low moral character. The women appealed his decision to the California State Supreme Court, where they again lost their case. Finally, they sought relief from the federal Circuit Court for the District of California, and their appeal was heard by Judge Stephen Field, a U.S. Supreme Court justice hearing lower-court cases, a common practice in those days. This time the women won. Field regarded state immigration laws as an opportunity to discriminate against people on whatever grounds the state wished. In his opinion, Field cited the Burlingame Treaty as well as the Fourteenth Amendment as grounds for the protection of the women’s rights. The anti-Chinese press called for the case to be heard by the U.S. Supreme Court, and Field welcomed the scrutiny. He had suggested it in his opinion. The case, now called Chy Lung v Freeman, was argued in 1876 and marked the first time that a Chinese litigant appeared before the United States’ highest court. The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the lower court’s decision, upbraiding California’s immigration law on three grounds, all essentially saying that the state had overstepped its authority in establishing immigration policy.

First, the law conveyed undue power and authority on Piotrowski, who could exercise that authority capriciously. Second, the law invited shallow profiling. In effect, anyone could claim that individual passengers were criminals, paupers, mentally deficient or people of undesirable character. Finally, the state of California could establish policies and practices that contradicted or jeopardized the foreign policy of the United States. The Case of the 22 Lewd Women might only have pushed anti-Chinese forces to go national. The anti-Chinese forces recognized if a state’s immigration policies were invalid, then federal law was needed. In 1875, Congress passed the Page Act, the first federal law restricting immigration to the United States. It would lay the groundwork for the more comprehensive Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882.

The Page Act, named for its sponsor, Republican Congressman Horace Page of California, was intended to prevent the entry into the United States of any Asian considered “undesirable.” The “undesirables” included any “coolie” or unskilled labor, those convicted of crimes in their own country and any woman who would engage in prostitution. Those found guilty of providing passage to America to such undesirables were subject to a $2,000 fine and imprisonment for a year. The Page Act did little to restrict the immigration of Asian men to the United States. The enforcement was enacted almost exclusively against women, who were much more obvious targets. Public perception of Chinese women played a factor in their discrimination. Since the Gold Rush days, it was common for Chinese women to serve as prostitutes for the male community. It was the case with many other nationalities and ethnic groups in the American West, where prostitution was an established institution.

The attitude of Chinese men to women also played a part. Chinese men held women in submission and subjugation, nearly contempt, and this was seen by whites as a form of slavery. Chinese men also had several wives, whose status were revealed by their sexual status as either first wives, second wives or concubines. Many people believed that virtually all Chinese women were enslaved prostitutes, regardless of their marital and social status. Americans also feared that Chinese born in the United States would grow up to corrupt the social structure, especially threatening the institution of marriage as well as the conflicted attitude white American males adopted toward women. 

As a result, the Page Law was a seen as a response to the threat from Chinese to American values and social order. Making it easier to enforce the law against women was the system of restriction at the point of embarkation – Hong Kong.

The American consul in Hong Kong, David Bailey, was charged with regulating Chinese women who were attempting to travel to the United States as wives of Chinese men. Bailey was given broad latitude to interview and examine the women. Women who wanted to travel to the United States were first required to make a statement regarding their intentions. They were then examined by the Tung Wah Hospital Committee, a group of Hong Kong businessmen. If they passed those hurdles, they were referred to the American consul office where they were required to answer a lengthy questionnaire, including questions such as, “Have you entered into a contract for the purposes of ... lewd conduct? Are you going to the United States to engage in prostitution? Have you ever engaged in prostitution? Are you married or single? Are you a virtuous woman?” They were questioned again by the Hong Kong harbor master and then again on the ship where they booked passage.

The women were photographed in Hong Kong, and when they arrived in San Francisco, they were again questioned, and their photographs were inspected. If anything didn’t match up perfectly, they were arrested and deported. As a result, between 1875 and 1882, several hundred women were returned to China.

The Page Act was effective in choking off the immigration of Chinese women to the United States to a trickle, and it had never been a torrent. The number of Chinese immigrants entering the United States during Page Act enforcement was about 13,000, but the female population of Chinese in America dropped from 6.4 percent in 1870 to 4.6 percent in 1880. In 1882 alone, during the few months before the enactment of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882 and the beginning of its enforcement, 39,579 Chinese entered the U.S., and only 136 of them were women. 

Chinese were unable to create families within the U.S., severely limiting the opportunity for Chinese in America to cultivate a healthy family life and culture. The ratio of females to male Chinese in America continued to be severely out of balance until the period after World War II, when the Exclusion Act was fully repealed and more women immigrated as war brides under the War Brides Act.


1876 the 22 Lewd Chinese Women Edit

Chinese interests in America almost immediately began challenging the Chinese Exclusion Acts in the courts. Just as in the case of the 22 Lewd Chinese Women, a number of organized Chinese interests were both politically willing and financially able to challenge the law in the courts. The West, where most Chinese in America lived, was the common legal battleground. Western states had been trying to suppress Chinese Americans since the Gold Rush days by enacting a series of laws designed to restrict civil rights, ability to make a living and own property, or live where they pleased. Despite this concerted oppression, the Chinese in America had developed a strong social and political hierarchy among themselves that helped Chinese resist, or at least cope, with the successive acts of oppression imposed on them. Central to the Chinese social and political structure was the family, formed into a power structure by clans. Clans would develop social and economic alliances and formed themselves into associations. At the pinnacle of that structure was the Chinese Six Companies, the ruling structure formed from representatives of the six districts of San Francisco’s Chinatown. Later known as the Chinese Benevolent Association of America, the Six Companies acted as the ruling structure for Chinese Americans from the days of the Gold Rush immigration. The Six Companies were a support structure for Chinese immigrants, a vehicle for settling disputes and a benevolent organization. As much as anything, the Six Companies maintained order among the Chinese society during the chaotic and free-wheeling frontier period. They were a buffer against the more violent and ruthless tongs, organized crime syndicates that trafficked in drugs and prostitution. They also established social structures, such as schools, clinics and homes for the needy and victimized women. Later in the 19th Century, the Six Companies served as Chinatown’s de facto government - both its legislative and judicial functions. The Six Companies eventually served as the voice of Chinese in America, and in fact served as diplomatic liaison for the Chinese government not only with local and U.S. officials but with Chinese in America. The Six Companies and their related business organizations were assisted by an international network of Chinese immigrants opposed to the Exclusion Acts. The Chinese consulate offered financial and legal assistance. Wealthy Chinese business interests contributed to legal defense funds. That network of support explains how Chinese Americans managed to mount thousands of legal challenges to the Chinese Exclusion Act in the decades after its passage. The Exclusion Act was clear on one point that provided a frequent basis for legal challenge: Chinese laborers who had been admitted to the United States could be readmitted to the United States if they held a “return certificate” attesting to their residency before the Exclusion Act became law. Many Chinese had left the country before the certificates were available, however. Returning Chinese without certificates who were detained routinely filed writs of habeas corpus to establish their right to remain in the country. The government official who usually determined the validity of a return certificate was the collector of revenue for U.S. Customs in a port of entry, also known as “the collector.” Most legal cases began with a writ of habeas corpus claiming that the collector was wrong to detain the entering individual. Writs of habeas corpus essentially challenged the government’s right to detain an individual without evidence, or in this case to deport that individual. Courts became clogged with such writs. Decisions on some of them served as precedent that could be applied to thousands of others. At one point in San Francisco, more than 7,000 cases of writs of habeas corpus were awaiting decision on behalf of Chinese immigrants. Challenges to the Exclusion Act were made almost as soon as the act was signed into law. In one of the first, a Chinese seaman named Ah Sing had lived in California in 1880 but had left to board a ship before the Exclusion Act was passed. When their ship returned to San Francisco, the collector denied Ah Sing and his crewmates re-entry into the United States on the grounds that they did not have return certificates. U.S. Supreme Court Justice Stephen Field, who would later rule in other landmark immigration cases, ruled that the collector who had denied the Chinese re-entry had acted illegally, because by serving on a ship flying the American flag, Ah Sing had never left American territory. Low Yam Chow was a Chinese merchant in San Francisco who applied for re-entry after visiting Panama in 1882. The collector of the Port of San Francisco denied him entry because Low did not have the required “Section 6” certificate from the Chinese government identifying him as a merchant. Field also ruled in favor of the plaintiff in this case, noting that the provisions of the Exclusion Act were to be applied only to laborers, and not merchants, and Low was admitted. Several other early cases tested this question regarding the Exclusion Act: Who was to be considered “Chinese?” Did the Exclusion Act apply only to residents of China, or to all Chinese by national origin regardless of the country from which they were emigrating? In one case in Massachusetts, a man named Ah Shong, a laborer from Hong Kong, was admitted to the United States because he was traveling from a British territory. But court decisions regarding the Exclusion Act were not consistent. In another case in California, a laborer named Pong Ah Lung, also from Hong Kong, was denied entry. The opinion of Justice Field in that case was the Exclusion Act was intended by Congress to apply to all Chinese, according to their race, and regardless of country of origin. The most common challenge was by Chinese laborers who had left the United States before 1880 and attempted to return after the Exclusion Act was passed. Most courts ruled that these individuals, as in the case of Chin Ah On and several other laborers, could return to the United States because it was unreasonable to expect them to have obtained return certificates before they had even existed. One result of these cases, however, was that the Exclusion Acts were repeatedly amended so that their provisions became stricter[49] [50][51].

1884 Chew Heong v the United StatesEdit

The test case that was to become famous above all others was Chew Heong v the United States. Chew Heong (which might not have been his actual name) had come to the United States sometime before the Angell Treaty of 1880. In 1881, he left California for Honolulu, at the time the Kingdom of Hawaii, where he remained three years. When he returned in November 1884, he had no return certificate and was denied entry. An attorney for the China consul’s office. Thomas Riordan, filed a writ of habeas corpus challenging the government’s decision. Riordan’s legal argument was that a returning Chinese ought to be allowed to present other evidence than a return certificate to establishment legitimacy. He based his argument both on the civil rights guarantees of the Fourteenth Amendment and the provisions of the Angell Treaty of 1880 and other agreements with China. The case was heard before a panel of four judges in September, 1884: U.S Supreme Court Justice Stephen Field, U.S. Circuit Court Judge Lorenzo Sawyer and two “consulting” judges of the U.S. District Court, Ogden Hoffman and George Sabin.

On September 29, 1884, Field issued his decision in favor of the government and against Chew Heong. Field’s argument was that the intent of the 1884 Exclusion Act was clearly to require that returning immigrants produce a return certificate without exception. Even though the other three judges on the panel dissented, Field’s opinion prevailed, because he was the Supreme Court justice. The hearing was merely a prelude. The next day, Riordan filed an appeal. The U.S. Supreme Court agreed to take the case. It was argued before the Supreme Court on October 30. This time, Riordan prevailed. The court voted 7-2 to overturn Field’s decision. Chew Heong was free to remain in the United States.

The decision in Chew Heong made clear, at least for a time, that courts would allow alternative proofs of residency to returning immigrants, provided they had left the country before the Exclusion Acts became law. The decision accomplished something else, however: It provoked anti-Chinese interests to pursue exclusion even more vehemently. Congress amended the Exclusion Act yet again, in 1888. This version, the Scott Act, eliminated return certificates as a means of re-entry into the United States. That made it virtually impossible for Chinese laborers to enter the country if they were not in the United States already.

The Exclusion Act was scheduled to expire in 1892, but that was not the end of exclusion. Congress renewed it for 10 years with the Geary Act, which contained even more stringent restrictions against Chinese immigrants. Under the Geary Act, Chinese who filed writs of habeas corpus were denied bail while their cases were decided. With thousands of these cases in California alone, that could take years. The Geary Act also required that all Chinese laborers apply for a resident permit, which they needed to carry at all times and produce on demand. Failure to do so made them subject to deportation or a year at hard labor. To obtain a resident permit, a Chinese had to have a white person vouch for him [52][53].

1886 Yick Wo v. HopkinsEdit

Between 1873 and 1884, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed 14 provisions regulating laundries, 95 percent of which were operated by Chinese. In 1880, the City of San Francisco passed an ordinance requiring laundry services located in wooden buildings to apply for a permit from the Board of Supervisors before operation. The ordinance, at first glance, seemed reasonable, because wooden buildings were easier to catch fire than other types of buildings.

There were 320 laundries in San Francisco, and 95 percent of them in wooden buildings. About two-thirds of the laundries were operated by Chinese, and 89 percent of those employed in the laundry business were Chinese, because that was the only industry that would hire them. Subsequently, the Board of Supervisors granted permits to non-Chinese-owned laundries and rejected all applications from Chinese ones.

Yick Wo was a Chinese who had been operating a laundry service and living in San Francisco for many years. His laundry had been inspected by fire and health officials many times and had never incurred a violation. In 1885, the Board of Supervisors refused to grant Yick Wo a permit. He refused to pay the fine and continued to operate his laundry. He was arrested, jailed and prosecuted. The Chinese laundry industry filed a class action suit on his behalf, challenging the constitutionality of the laundry rule. His writ of habeas corpus was eventually heard by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1886.

In a unanimous decision delivered by Justice Stanley Matthews, the court found the implementation of the ordinance discriminatory; therefore, it did not need to decide whether the ordinance itself was lawful.

Justice Mathews opined that although the Chinese laundry owners might not be U.S. citizens, they were still protected by the Fourteenth Amendment. He said no states should violate the due process of law and deprive the life, liberty or property of any person, nor should anyone be refused equal protection of the law on account of race, color or nationality. Justice Matthews reprimanded the Board of Supervisors for abusing its discretionary power in granting the permits. They did not have to provide any reason or take any responsibility for their decisions. Such an ordinance was clearly intended to exclude the Chinese from the laundry trade in San Francisco; therefore, it was invalid.

The decision had little short-term effect, however. The U.S. Supreme Court, in Plessy v Ferguson in 1896, upheld the “separate but equal” practices used to oppress blacks in the South under Jim Crow laws.

In later years however, the case of Yick Wo v Hopkins achieved an exemplary status in the annals of U.S. civil rights law. Yick Wo’s case was cited more than 150 times by the U.S. Supreme Court under Chief Justice Earl Warren in the 1950s. The principle in Yick Wo was used to overthrow attempts of Southern states and cities to limit rights of black people. The Supreme Court’s opinion was explicit: The implementation of differential treatment solely based on race is a violation of the principles of a free society and is especially abominable.

Yick Wo’s persistence in pursuit of justice also earned him some recognition in his hometown. A school in San Francisco, “Yick Wo Alternative Elementary School” is named in honor of the 19th century laundry owner who refused to allow his rights to be violated. During the school ground breaking ceremony in the February, 1982,it was informed by a Chinese community member that Yick Wo was the name of a Chinese laundry, not the name of our hero. According to a letter signed by a Jake Chan, Yick Wo was owned by Lee Yick, who, in 1895, together with other Chinese laundrymen, hired an attorney to represent them to overturn the infamous “laundry ordinance”.

However, the education board of San Francisco said, according to law, Yick Wo is a landmark decision, it is significant for the future Chinese Americans who study here to learn that their ancestor had made important contribution to the American civil rights[54][55].

1879 California Constitution Prohibited the Employment of Chinese Edit

When the American Civil War ended, so did the nation’s labor shortage. The completion of the Transcontinental Railroad eliminated the need for cheap Chinese labor. Making matters worse, the nation entered a severe economic depression that persisted into the 1880s.

Minorities, especially the Chinese, became the scapegoat for America’s diminished expectations. Even though the War Between the States had established Lincoln’s “new birth of freedom” and the guarantee of civil rights for all Americans, regardless of color, the Reconstruction Era was filled with violations of those civil rights.

In the South, freed blacks were oppressed by Jim Crow laws and persecuted outright by secret societies such as the Ku Klux Klan.

Elsewhere, new immigrants targets for torment. Suspicion of foreigners and minorities was most pronounced in the Western United States, even though it was a melting pot of freed blacks, Confederate refugees, displaced Mexicans and fortune-seeking immigrants from all over the globe.

Against no other group, however, was political antagonism as overt as against the Chinese. Before the emancipation of slaves, the persecution of Negroes and Asians was considered equivalent: Both had darker skin color and originated from foreign lands. But after the Civil War, it became acceptable to transfer all racial hostility to Chinese. The “Chinese problem” became an accepted topic of political discourse, as if it were a subject such as tariffs or foreign policy. Politicians and pundits challenged each other on the best ways to deal with what they perceived as a deluge of Chinese entering the country.

In 1876, both the Republican and Democratic parties included an anti-Chinese plank in their national political platforms. Meanwhile, in cities and towns throughout the nation, but especially in the West, “anticoolie” organizations formed. Regular demonstrations against Chinese, including mob invasions of homes and businesses, and physical harassment of individuals, were a regular political and social exercise in the late 19th century. For many people, it was a night out.

When economic times turn hard, minorities feel it first and hardest. The experience of the Chinese was no exception. It was accepted as an article of faith that the Chinese had taken jobs from white workers, and there was an element of truth in that: Chinese would work longer hours for lower pay. Fear and mistrust of Chinese, especially in the competition for employment, was rampant. Employers declined to hire Chinese workers, because they were not averse to using strike tactics to obtain better wages and working conditions. Bitter Americans reacted by excluding Chinese from nearly every occupation except laundries, markets, restaurants and field labor.

Denis Kearney, a labor leader and demagogue in San Francisco, made his living and reputation on anti-Chinese sentiment. Kearney rallied mobs of unemployed white workers on the sand lots of San Francisco with his incendiary language, declaring emphatically, “The Chinese must go!” Even though he was jailed for inciting crowds to mob violence, his political power grew. San Francisco politicians were afraid to make a move without consulting him. Thanks in part to Kearney’s influence, when California adopted a revised state constitution in 1879, it included a provision that Chinese workers were not permitted to work on public works in California. The Heathen Chinee One of the more popular expressions of fear of Asians was provided by journalist, author and poet Bret Harte, one of the most famous writers in America in the late 19th century. In 1870, in his periodical, “The Overland Monthly,” Harte published a poem he had written titled, “Plain Language from Truthful James,” a frontier parody of Swinburne’s epic, “Atalanta.” Harte’s poem recounted a fictional card game between an Irishman named Bill Nye and a Chinese named Ah Sin. [“Ah Sin was his name;/ And I shall not deny/ In regard to the same,/ What that name might imply;”].

In the course of the card, Nye is discovered to hidden several cards up his sleeve. As it turns out, Ah Sin, who presents himself as innocent and ignorant of the rules, has even more cards hidden up his voluminous sleeves. When Nye, already guilty of cheating, discovers Ah Sin’s treachery, he laments, “‘We are ruined by Chinese cheap labor,’ – And he went for that heathen Chinee.”

The narrator’s conclusion: “That for ways that are dark/ And for tricks that are vain,/ The heathen Chinee is peculiar/ Which the same I am free to maintain.” Harte’s poem was a huge success. It was reprinted in newspapers and magazines across the nation under the title, ‘The Heathen Chinee.” Illustrated versions were brought out in paperback, inscribed on cards and decorated advertisements, all under the label “The Heathen Chinee.”


Harte and his fellow literary lion Mark Twain even collaborated on a stage production, which they titled “Ah Sin.” “The Heathen Chinee” phenomenon illustrated the plight of the Chinese in America in the late 19th century: They were regarded as devious, mysterious, alien and treacherous, a threat to Americans whether in the workplace or society.

In that atmosphere it was easy to proceed with a series of legal measures that gradually undermined the civil and legal rights of Chinese to a status lower than second-class citizens. From there it became a simple matter to exclude them entirely. The Anti-Chinese laws including the Fifteenth Amendment, California Fisherman’s Tax, Laundry Delivery Tax, Sidewalk Ordinance, Foreign Miners’ Tax, Cubic Air Ordinance, Queue Ordinance,

The loss of Chinese civil rights did not occur all at once, but by series of measure enacted at every level that gradually stripped them of legal standing.

The first and most important, however, laid the groundwork for succeeding discrimination. In 1870, Congress passed and the states ratified the Fifteenth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, guaranteeing all citizens the right to vote “without regard to race or color.” It was the companion to the Fourteenth Amendment, ratified in 1868, which guaranteed the right of citizenship to all persons born or naturalized in the United States and served as the constitutional abolition of slavery.

But in adopting the Fifteenth Amendment, Congress withheld from the Chinese the right to naturalize, declaring that Asians were aliens “ineligible for citizenship.” Offspring of Chinese born in the United States could participate as citizens by voting once they became of age, but the denial of the rights of citizenship by naturalization to Chinese immigrants made it impossible for them to act legally on their own behalf. This is an important distinction for the legal status of Chinese in America: Excluded from citizenship, they could receive no protection under the laws of the United States.

The great majority of Chinese lived in California, where they had participated in the Gold Rush and the construction of the Pacific Railway, two landmarks of California history.

Consequently, the first acts of restrictions on Chinese rights for employment, ownership of business or property, and participation in commerce were enacted in California. Some of the repressive laws seemed innocuous at first. As with most acts of repression aimed at a specific social group, they could be viewed as applying to all, even though they were enforced selectively against the targeted group, That was the case with the “sidewalk ordinance,” enacted in 1870 in San Francisco, which made it a crime for anyone to walk through the city carrying poles over the shoulder with bags attached at each end. It was obviously directed at the Chinese, who could be seen throughout the city delivering bundles of fresh laundry in this very manner.

The city of San Francisco also passed an ordinance that required those who delivered laundry to pay a tax of two dollars a quarter if they delivered the laundry in a horse-drawn vehicle, and four dollars a quarter if they used two vehicles. But the fee was $15 if the laundry was delivered with no vehicle at all, which was the case with most Chinese-owned laundries.

Those were only two of the measures enacted in this period to suppress Chinese participation in business, or indeed, society. As mentioned previously, a special Foreign Miners Tax had been enacted in 1852, requiring all foreign-born miners to pay a tax of $3 a month for the privilege of working in the gold fields. It was repealed in 1870, by which time it had increased to $20 a month.

In 1852, Congress had enacted the capitation tax, a $50 tax on each person who was not a citizen and was traveling on a vessel. The 1860 Chinese Fisherman’s Tax imposed a $4 per month fee on Chinese who fished. It must not have satisfied the white fishing lobby, because in 1880, the Legislature passed the “California Fisheries Act,” which made it illegal for Chinese to fish in California waters. It was quickly overturned as unconstitutional in violation of the Fourteenth Amendment. The Police Tax Law of 1862, previously referenced, charged a $2.50 fee per month to Mongolians. It was ruled unconstitutional by the state Supreme Court in 1863, which is noteworthy because that was before the ratification of the civil rights protections in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth amendments to the U.S. Constitution. By 1870, there were about 50,000 Chinese living in California. The number increased to 75,000 in 1880 and almost half of them were in San Francisco, constituting about 10 percent of the San Francisco population. The hostility toward them had intensified as their numbers increased, resulting in further laws enacted against the Chinese.

Fighting back

The city of San Francisco continued a series of provisions to restrict Chinese trade and actions with the Cubic Air Ordinance. It prohibited rental of rooms with less than 500 cubic feet of space per person.

The ordinance itself was not discriminatory, but its enforcement was. Officials ignored violations in white neighborhoods and rounded up Chinese in Chinatown, where dense living conditions prevailed. Chinese were arrested and herded into jail until they paid the fine. In 1873, the city enacted the infamous queue ordinance, by which Chinese men were required to cut their hair to a length of one inch. This measure produced a severe loss of morale among Chinese. In their homeland, it was considered treason to cut off one’s pigtail and a loss of social status. Cutting their queues produced shame and embarrassment among American Chinese. The queue ordinance was short-lived. It was vetoed by the mayor shortly after enactment. But shoring Chinese men’s queues continued to be a punishment inflicted for other offenses.

The anti-Chinese laws kept coming. The state of California continued to pass laws prohibiting Chinese from engaging in certain occupations. It had already enacted laws against Chinese owning property, fishing, mining and trading.


Chinese Exclusion Act Edit

The “Chinese Question” was the overwhelming political issue of the United States in the late 19th century, akin to the debate over slavery versus abolition in the years before the Civil War. Politicians, citizens and media agitated fiercely for resolution of how to deal with Chinese immigration. The most extreme, and often most popular, solution was for complete exclusion. Complete prohibition of Chinese immigration, however, faced a number of legal obstacles, among them the Burlingame Treaty of 1868 that protected the rights of Chinese immigrant laborers. Given the antipathy most Americans held for Chinese, the Burlingame Treaty was unpopular from the beginning, and opponents moved quickly to mitigate it. Among the first steps was the so-called “Fifteen Passenger Bill” that would limit to 15 the number of Chinese laborers who could be transported on a ship to the United States. It was passed by Congress in 1879 but vetoed by President Rutherford B. Hayes on the grounds that it would have violated the Burlingame Treaty. Anti-immigration advocates in Congress continued to press Hayes. To appease them, he sent envoy James Angell to China in 1880 to renegotiate provisions of the Burlingame Treaty. The result was the Angell Treaty, signed in Beijing in November 1880, also referred to as the Treaty of 1880. With the Angell Treaty, the government of China agreed that the United States had the right to “regulate” immigration when its interests were threatened, but not to prohibit it. The treaty specifically defined laborers as being subject to restriction. The treaty of 1880 left most of other provisions of the Burlingame Treaty intact. It permitted Chinese living in the United States before the Angell Treaty to travel freely, and it affirmed the “most favored nation” status of Chinese nationals living in America. With some of the barriers of the Burlingame Treaty eliminated, Congress quickly seized on the provisions of the Angell Treaty to pursue exclusion. However, both treaties continued to offer legal arguments to fight exclusion, an opportunity that was put to effective use by Chinese and their attorneys in legal challenges through the courts.

In the spring of 1882, Congress passed and President Chester A. Arthur signed the first Chinese Exclusion Act. Its text was very similar to the Page Act. Indeed, Horace Page composed the compromise that was eventually adopted after Arthur’s initial veto. In place of “lewd and immoral conduct,” however, the Exclusion Act prohibited virtually all Chinese from entering the country except those who could prove they practiced a needed profession or skill. And although the Page Act was directed at any immigrant from Asia, the Exclusion Act applied solely to those from China. It provided an absolute 10-year moratorium on immigration of Chinese labor. For the first time, federal law proscribed entry of an ethnic working group on the premise that it endangered the good order of certain localities. The Chinese Exclusion Act required the few non-laborers who sought entry to obtain certification from the Chinese government that they were qualified to immigrate. But this group found it increasingly difficult to prove that they were not laborers, because the 1882 act defined excludables as “skilled and unskilled laborers and Chinese employed in mining.” The Exclusion Act (and its several successors), also applied the same undesirable status to families of laborers, or anyone else who could not prove connection to the professional or merchant class. Thus very few Chinese could enter the country under the 1882 law. The supposed intention of the law was to prevent the United States from being flooded with “coolie labor,” an argument that resonated well in a nation in the throes of a Depression and afflicted with high unemployment. Beyond prohibiting immigration from China, the Chinese Exclusion Act further prohibited the Chinese from becoming naturalized citizens. The act provided that:

1. Chinese laborers were prohibited from entering the United States for 10 years. The original provision in the law had been 20 years, but President Arthur, in vetoing the bill, argued that 20 years was too long. The compromise law, crafted by U.S. Rep. Horace Page, R-California, reduced the time period and added other provisions, some of which were more relaxed and others more restricting, including a prohibition against Chinese women entering the country at all.

2. Chinese in the United States were prohibited from becoming naturalized U.S. citizens. Once the Chinese went back to China to visit, they were not allowed to return to the U.S. This provision created huge hardship for Chinese who were unfortunate enough to be outside the United States when the Exclusion Act was adopted. It also wasa the provision that later was most frequently and effectively challenged in the courts.

3. Chinese laborers who resided in the United States before November 17, 1880, when the Angell Treaty was enacted, and had obtained the certificate from the U.S. Customs, were allowed to return to the U.S. after leaving temporarily. Successive amendments to the Exclusion Acts, however, continued to tighten this restriction. By the time the Exclusion was renewed by the Geary Act in 1892, re-entry with the so-called “return certificate” was eliminated. 4. The Chinese who held the English certificate (also known as a Section 6 certificate) issued by the Chinese government and who were not laborers were permitted to enter the United States.

5. All illegal Chinese immigrants would be deported.

6. State courts or federal courts could not permit any Chinese to become naturalized U.S. citizens.

7. The entry of Chinese laborers and their dependents was prohibited.

The Chinese Exclusion Act was repealed in 1943. It was replaced by the Magnuson Act. Among the ways the government intended to enforce the Exclusion Act were severe penalties against any shipper who allowed passage by Chinese to the United States. Section 2 of the law provided that the master of any vessel bringing Chinese into the country would be fined $500 for each Chinese person transported and convicted of a misdemeanor punishable by a year in jail. The act also called for a fine of $1,000 and misdemeanor conviction of anyone collaborating with others to bring Chinese illegally into the country. Those were provisions borrowed almost verbatim from the Page Act. In response to legal challenges, the Chinese Exclusion Act was amended in 1884, 1886 and 1888 and then renewed when it expired in 1892 as the Geary Act. The 1884 revision tightened the requirements for proving status as an exempt immigrant and made the requirements stricter for obtaining a “return certificate” allowing Chinese who had left the country to return. By 1886, both the Chinese government and the United States were unhappy with the Exclusion Act. Anti-immigration forces were frustrated that provisions of the law were being successfully overturned in court. The Chinese government was unhappy with the continued persecution of Chinese nationals in the United States, such as at the 1885 Rock Springs Massacre in Wyoming in which 28 Chinese immigrants were massacred.

The Chinese agreed to further restrictions on immigration in return for improved security for Chinese nationals in the United States. The new restrictions required that Chinese returning to the United States had to prove they had a spouse or children living in America, or owned $1,000 in property or owed that much in debt.

The new treaty was never ratified, however, because of opposition from Chinese subjects. In response, Congress unilaterally enacted new restrictions to the Exclusion Acts in 1888. The new law, called the Scott Act, restricted all Chinese laborers from entering the country, regardless of point of origin, and it revoked the residential certificates. Under the Scott Act, even Chinese who were American citizens but had left the country were not allowed to re-enter. The provisions of the Scott Act remained in effect until 1943[56][57].

Violent backlash Edit

Far from appeasing the anti-Chinese elements, passage of the Exclusion Acts only incited them. Persecution of Chinese, especially in the West, became more virulent. The systematic violence against entire Chinese communities approached the level of a pogrom as the anti-Chinese forces persisted in their efforts to drive all Chinese people out of their communities and the country. The most infamous example of violence was the massacre of at least 28 Chinese laborers at Rock Springs, Wyoming on Sept. 2, 1885 at a coal mining camp operated by the Union Pacific Railroad. Resentment at Chinese had been simmering for years, in part because of the Union Pacific’s policy of paying Chinese laborers less than white miners. Whites were bitter because they saw the Chinese as taking their jobs. White workers formed an organization called the Knights of Labor to advocate for white laborers, agitate against the railroad and repress the Chinese. On the morning of Sept. 2, 1885, a group of 10 white miners arrived at the mine and drove Chinese laborers out. More white workers joined in the tumult, until a mob of about 150 armed rioters descended on the Chinese settlement in Rock Springs. They freely assaulted any Chinese they encountered, robbing them, shooting them and in some cases torturing them. The mob burnt the Chinatown to the ground, including some buildings that were occupied. They drove the rest of the surviving Chinese out of Rock Springs. Hundreds of stragglers were rescued by passing trains. Observers who returned to Rock Springs after the massacre witnessed macabre carnage. Charred or dismembered bodies were left to decay or be attacked by animals. Chinatown was leveled. Some victims were so mutilated they could not be identified.

When the victims were counted, there were 28 confirmed deaths, although some observers believe there were more than that, and some people were never found. Others died in the mountains from attacks by wolves or exposure. At least 15 people were injured. Federal troops were called in to restore order.

Authorities arrested 16 men in connection with the massacre, but they could find no one to testify against them. They were freed after a week. No one was ever punished in connection with the Rock Springs Massacre.

In the aftermath, the head of the Knights of Labor, Terence Powlenty, complained that responsibility for the murders in Rock Springs was the fault of weak provisions of the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1884.

The Rock Springs Massacre provoked other incidents of violence against Chinese, mostly in the Northwest Territories of Washington, Oregon and Idaho.

On Sept. 25, 1885, delegates from a mass anti-Chinese rally in Seattle issued a manifesto to force all Chinese out of Washington territory by November 1. To warn the Chinese of the impending deadline, committees went house to house in Tacoma and Seattle delivering the evacuation order. By the end of October, most Chinese, including all laborers, had left, but a few merchants, unwilling to abandon their property, remained. On November 3, 1885, hundreds of white men carried out their ultimatum and descended on Tacoma’s Chinatown. They broke down doors, dragged people from their homes and herded about 600 Chinese to the Northern Pacific Railroad station in a heavy rainstorm where they kept them without shelter through the night. Two men died from exposure and one man’s wife went insane. The Northern Pacific Railroad finally rescued the people and transported them to Portland. The persecution persisted for months. The U.S. Secretary of War dispatched troops to Seattle to prevent another pogrom. They were little better than the rioters. The troops decided to collect a “special tax” from the residents of Chinatown. They beat up several Chinese and cut off one man’s queue, pushed another down a flight of stairs and threw another into the harbor. Months after the troops left, in February, white rioters again ousted Chinese from their homes, rounding them up on the docks, where a crowd of at least 300 people shivered and were prevented from returning home. The governor ordered the mob to disperse. Volunteers were sworn in to escort the Chinese back to their homes. At that, a gang of 2,000 rioters attacked them, leaving one rioter dead and four wounded. President Grover Cleveland declared martial law and dispatched federal troops to Seattle. Cleveland would cite the Rock Springs Massacre in his State of the Union address of 1886, saying the United States wanted peaceful relations with China. In 1887, a group of at least four white men robbed, murdered and mutilated 31 Chinese in the Hell’s Canyon of the Snake River in Oregon. Three men were arrested but never convicted. The area is in the Wallowa-Whitman National Recreation Forest and the Hell’s Canyon National Recreation Area. It has been renamed Chinese Massacre Cove[58].

1892 Fong Yue Ting v. U.S.Edit

Challenges to the Geary Act arose immediately. If anything, the Geary Act was even more insulting and infuriating to Chinese than earlier Exclusion Acts, because it essentially made all Chinese immigrants suspected criminals. Fong Yue Ting was a Chinese laborer living in the Unites States since 1879. He had not become a U.S. citizen but was a legal permanent resident of New York City. He responded to the request of the Six Companies to serve as a test challenge to the Geary Act. Fong refused to register and apply for a resident permit and was arrested without due process of law. A judge immediately ordered his deportation without a hearing.

Fong appealed, claiming that the requirement to have a “credible white witness” vouch for him was unfair because he had only Chinese acquaintances. His case, as well as two others supported by the Six Companies, made it the U.S. Supreme Court. Wong Quan was another Chinese who did not register. Lee Joe attempted to register but was denied because he did not have two white persons testifyd for him. Fong Yue Ting v United States was argued before the U.S. Supreme Court on May 10 and decided on May 15, 1893. In a 6-3 decision, the justices decided against Fong Yue Ting and upheld the Geary Act. In the majority opinion, Justice Horace Gray stated that the United States is a sovereign state with rights to establish its own immigration policies and exclude anyone or to deport them. He found the Geary Act valid.

In expressing the dissenting opinion of the three justices in the minority, Justice Stephen Field wrote that the decision of the Court deprived the resident aliens of the guarantees of the Constitution. He said, “Those guarantees are of priceless value to every one resident in the country, whether citizen or alien.” Chief Justice Melville Fuller in his dissenting opinion said the Geary Act inflicted punishment without a judicial trial. It was in effect a legislative sentence of banishment, and as such, absolutely void. The decision established a precedent for immigration law in the United States, asserting that a “sovereign nation” had the right to establish whatever conditions it wanted to impose on immigration and that its sovereignty held more legal weight than human rights. Therefore, it was not inconsistent for Congress to establish requirements for immigrants already living in the United States. The dissenting opinions, however, did establish that aliens who faced deportation or other sanctions under immigration laws were entitled to a judicial hearing and due process of law.

The Fong Yue Ting decision became a cornerstone of immigration policy through most of the 20th century. Resident aliens were required to register annually with the government as late as the 1970s. The resident permit system was replaced in the 1940s with the “green card,” or permanent residency permit, system.

Upon hearing the decision of the case, the Chinese Consulate, Six Companies and other Chinese groups issued a statement proclaiming that if any Chinese was deported as a result of the Geary Act, the government had to bear all their expenses. The Chinese government also announced that if the Act was implemented, China would sever its relation with the U.S. and cut off all economic and trade ties.

Since Congress did not provide any funding to the Act, Geary Act was rendered moot untilthe McCreary Amendment which provided an additional six months for the Chinese to register for the resident permit. Even with the amendment, Congress did not fund it adequately for its enforcement. The decision of Fong Yue Ting granted the immigration officials with unlimited power ofdeciding whether one can enter the U.S. It is difficult to appeal their decisions either through legal means or diplomatic channels[59][60][61].

1895 Lem Moon Sing v. U.S.Edit

Lem Moon Sing was a businessman and legal resident of San Francisco. He was born in China and had not been naturalized as a U.S. citizen. In January 1894, he went to China to visit and upon returning to the United States in November, his entry was denied. His case was argued on April 18 and 19 and decided on May 27, 1895.

The Supreme Court found that, in accordance with the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1894, if a foreigner entered the U.S. under a treaty and was denied entry by the immigration officials, the decision was final unless overturned by the appeal to the Secretary of Treasury. Justice John Marshall Harlan stated that Congress could reject anyone from entering the United States by legislation, or by establishing requirements for the entry. Such legislation would be implemented by the executive officers without judicial interference. The only remedy available to Lem Moon Sing was to appeal to the Secretary of Treasury and not to the courts.

This case established the principle that the courts could not review any habeas corpus proceeding when any Chinese was refused entry and being detained by the immigration authorities.

Not only did the decision close off one avenue for remedy of Chinese who were detained and deported upon re-entry into the United States, it gave enormous power to the collector of revenue for a port, presenting opportunities for bribery and other corruption[62].

1898 U.S. v. Wong Kim ArkEdit

Wong Kim Ark was born in San Francisco, and both his parents were legal residents. In 1890, He accompanied his parents to China. When he returned to the United States, a custom officer identified him as a U.S. citizen and he was permitted to enter. In 1894, Wong again went to China, but when he returned in 1895, the customs officer refused his entry because of the Chinese Exclusion Act, and he was detained in San Francisco.

California federal court followed the precedents of In re Look Tin Sing and Gee Fook Sing vs. U.S., and ruled that the meaning of “jurisdiction” in the first sentence of Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment was “legal jurisdiction” and not “political jurisdiction.”

It affirmed Wong Kim Ark’s U.S. citizenship. The U.S. government appealed to the Supreme Court. In 1897, this case was decided by the Supreme Court in favor of Wong Kim Ark. The justices opined that Chinese born in the United States who were not Chinese diplomats or public officers, and had permanent residency in the United States, are U.S. citizens by birth. This case affirms the principle of jus soli (citizenship based on the place of birth) on one’s citizenship.

The Supreme Court also affirmed that the text of the Fourteenth Amendment is superior to any bills passed by the Congress. The Court stated that the first sentence of Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment, the Citizenship Clause was clear, "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.”

Chief Justice Melville Fuller in his dissenting opinion stated that the meaning of “subject to the jurisdiction therefore” was that all persons should be free of any foreign power. Accordingly, children born to the parents who happened to pass through the United States were not subject to the U.S. jurisdiction. He said the doctrine of jus sanguinis (children inherit citizenship from their parents) was more suitable for this case. He pointed out that Chinese were different from the black people because Chinese had their own cultural traditions and could not be easily assimilated into the mainstream of American society. Further, the Chinese law at that time made the renouncement of allegiance to the Chinese Emperor a capital crime. The Chinese Exclusion Act further made the Chinese immigrants already in the U.S. not eligible for citizenship. After Wong Kim Ark was confirmed as a U.S. citizen by the Supreme Court, his three children, Wong Yook Sue, Wong Yook Thue and Wong Yook Jim all became U.S. citizens. In 1942, The “Native Sons of the Golden West” challenged the citizenship of 2,600 American-born Japanese. However, it failed to convince a federal court and the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals to reconsider the decision of Wong Kim Ark. There have been other legislative attempts to overturn Wong Kim Ark. Congressional bills have been introduced from time to time to challenge the Supreme Court’s interpretation of the Citizenship Clause and have sought (thus far unsuccessfully) to deny citizenship of the U.S. born children of foreign visitors or illegal aliens, including the "Birthright Citizenship Act of 2009” and the “Birthright Citizenship Act of 2011.”

At present, government acknowledges the citizenship of a person born in the United States if either of his parents is a U.S. citizen. The birthright citizenship doctrine of Wong Kim Ark has remained intact[63].


Wikipedia:Template:Chinese American


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  48. "Burlingame Treaty". http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Burlingame_Treaty. 
  49. "Page_Act_of_1875". http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Page_Act_of_1875. 
  50. {{cite web|url=Abrams, Kerry, “Polygamy, Prostitution, and the Federalization of Immigration Law,” Colombia Law Review 105.3 (Apr. 2005).
  51. Eithne Luibheid, Entry Denied: Controlling Sexuality at the Border (University of Minnesota Press, 2002)
  52. http://www.ourdocuments.gov/doc.php?flash=true&doc=47
  53. http://www.asianamericanlegal.com/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=29&Itemid=36
  54. Yick Wo v. Hopkins, 118 U.S. 356(1886)http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yick_Wo_v._Hopkins
  55. L.A. TIMES February24, 1982
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  57. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinese_exclusion_act
  58. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rock_Springs_massacre
  59. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Geary_Act
  60. Fong Yue Ting v. United States - 149 U.S. 698, 13 S. Ct. 1016. 37 L.Ed. 905 (1893)
  61. http://supreme.justia.com/us/149/698/case.html
  62. LEM MOON SING v. UNITED STATES 158 U.S. 538(1895)
  63. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v._Wong_Kim_Ark

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