One of the main difficulties facing those researching Chinese New Zealand history is the complex, confusing and daunting number of laws, policies and regulations relating to the Chinese in New Zealand. Compared with the actual size of the Chinese New Zealand community, the sheer number of these laws, policies and regulations is enormous. This is significant, not only because it shows what New Zealand has felt about the Chinese, but because each law, policy and regulation has been a barrier against which generations of Chinese New Zealanders have had to struggle to survive.
The complex legislative and administrative process, combined with the number of laws and policies enacted against Chinese, has until recently made this area of history almost inaccessible.
Nigel Murphy’s Guide to Laws and Policies relating to the Chinese in New Zealand 1871-1997 aims to rectify this situation. As its name implies its intention is to provide an easy-to-use guide to the Kafkaesque world of the laws, regulations and policy decisions relating to the Chinese in New Zealand. Commissioned by the New Zealand Chinese Association in 1994 and completed in 1996, it was intended to supplement the work done on the poll tax research book, and to provide a comprehensive guide to all laws, regulations and policies relating to Chinese New Zealanders enacted by the New Zealand government between 1871 and 1997. A detailed index was compiled in 2008 thanks to a grant from the Chinese Poll Tax Heritage Trust, and it was finally published in June this year.
The Guide consists of a chronological listing of all laws and policies relating to and affecting Chinese New Zealanders. In also contains essays on key topics such as the poll tax, naturalisation, thumbprints and education tests, re-entry certificates, the permit system of entry relating to Chinese, Chinese business manager and student concessions, women, the 1939 refugee scheme, remittances, Chinese ownership of land, war service and registration of aliens. It also has a number of appendices, including the full text of Customs Department circular memos—a primary source of information on immigration policy relating to Chinese in New Zealand between 1882 and 1945—, and the texts of all surviving petitions by Chinese New Zealanders relating to immigration. The Guide is 405 pages in length and is as complete a survey of the subject as possible.
It will be an indispensable research tool for historians, researchers, genealogists and anyone interested in Chinese New Zealand history.
Copies are available from the New Zealand Chinese Association PO Box 6008 at a cost of $50.00