• AWNS_19010905_2_2, courtesy of Auckland Libraries Heritage Collection and published in the 'Auckland Weekly News' of 5 September 1901.
Tags: History

Rejected naturalisations of two Takapuna residents in 1911

On 10 October 1911 the New Zealand Government summarily rejected two applications for naturalisation as New Zealand citizens. Naturalisation would have accorded the applicants rights such as those to vote and participate in New Zealand society as equals. However, under the Asiatic Restriction Act of 1896 all Chinese were denied the right to naturalise, and this Act wasn’t rescinded until 1951.

Wong Yep was described as a market gardener of O’Neills Point Road (now Bayswater Avenue), aged 44 (born around 1867) who had arrived in New Zealand around 1903. He was born in Canton (now Guangzhou), China. Writing in favour of his naturalisation, John C Webster, who was the Town Clerk of Devonport Borough from 1898, had “found him a hardworking and honest man”. Certainly a glowing endorsement from a highly ranked local government official.
Similarly, Wong Sing Fan was also a market gardener of O’Neills Point Road, and 32 years old. Webster “had met him with his partner Wong Yep on many occasions and found him to be an honourable man”. He was aged 28 (born around 1883) when he arrived in Auckland on the ‘Miowera’ from Sydney on 8th July 1907, in steerage.
Wong Sing Fan had to pay a one hundred pound tax to the government, via the master of the incoming ship, to even land in New Zealand. If he had arrived a year later in 1908, he would also have had to sit an English language reading test. Around 4,500 Chinese paid the poll tax from 1881 to 1936. The tax was finally abolished in 1944.
Both applicants appear to have continued to live in New Zealand. In May 1925 Wong Yep was described as occupying just over 14 acres in the Mangere area, likely still market gardening. In July 1927 he was fined one pound for a minor traffic offence. I couldn’t locate him after that and he may have returned to China. Permanent residency in New Zealand had already been denied to Chinese from 1926.
Wong Sing Fan is more difficult to trace conclusively. A Sing Wong, who was born around 1884, died on 4th January 1935 and was buried at Waikumete Cemetery aged 51. From the Little and Son funeral records at Auckland Libraries, Sing Wong was living in Favona Road in Mangere and had been in New Zealand “about thirty years”. He was married to Cheong She and had two sons. One son was aged 31 and born around 1904, and the other 28 and born around 1907, which is the year in which our Wong Sing Fan came to New Zealand.
Sing Wong also had two daughters. One was aged 23 and born around 1912, and the other 15 and born around 1920. A Sing Wong or Wong Sing was allowed to re-enter New Zealand on 25th August 1912, and more confusingly a Wong Sing arrived in Auckland on 14th January 1920 and another Wong Sing on 23rd March 1920, both from Sydney. Nevertheless, it may well have been that Sing Wong, or Wong Sing, was travelling backward and forward to his family in China. He would have needed a re-entry permit on each occasion.
Tsai Lee conducted the service for Sing Wong in the Waikumete Chapel and the funeral account was to go to Sing Lai and Wong Chong, also of Favona Road in Mangere. However, there is nothing conclusive that the Sing Wong or Wong Sing who died in 1935 was also known as Wong Sing Fan.
On 12 February 2002 the New Zealand Government issued a public apology to the Chinese community for its previous anti-Chinese legislation.


Issue 132 July 2022