Chinese Political Values in Colonial Victoria: Lowe Kong Meng and the Legacy of the July 1880 Election

in Journal of Chinese Overseas
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Lowe Kong Meng (Liu Guangming 劉光眀, 1831-1888),1 pre-eminent merchant and community leader of gold-rush Melbourne, was active in Australian politics, self-regarded as a British subject yet engaged with the Qing dynasty and was likely the first overseas Chinese awarded rank in the Chinese imperial service. Victoria’s mid-1880 election was a watershed: the immediate aftermath was the re-introduction of regulations penalising Chinese, after over 15 years of free immigration and no official discrimination. After the election it was claimed that Lowe Kong Meng persuaded Victoria’s Chinese to vote for the government, but was it in his interests to do so? This article examines the nature of Lowe Kong Meng’s engagement in European and Chinese political activity in the colony, as well as the extent of his leadership in Chinese colonial and diasporic life and explores how much he could have used that leadership to influence electoral outcomes. The article also examines how Lowe Kong Meng and the wider Chinese population of the colony brought changing political agendas to Victoria and developed these agendas through their colonial experiences.

Chinese Political Values in Colonial Victoria: Lowe Kong Meng and the Legacy of the July 1880 Election

in Journal of Chinese Overseas



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“Mr. E. Latham at Carlton” The Argus 1880 July 9 5 6:a

“Mr. W. Mitchell at Footscray” The Argus 1880 July 9 5 6:a

“Mr. Service at Coburg” The Argus 1880 July 10 8:a

“Mr. Coppin at Collingwood” The Argus 1880 July 10 8:a

“Stawell, Friday: Mr. G. Purcell, the Ministerial candidate” The Argus 1880 July 10 8:c

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“Mr. S. G. King at North Melbourne” The Argus 1880 July 13 6

“Mr. Bent at Brighton” The Argus 1880 July 14 6

“The Deputy returning officer at Creswick was dismissed” The Argus 1880 September 2 6

* “We do not know who the Red Cross Knights of Ballarat are, but judging from the manifesto they have issued against our Chinese fellow colonists, they seem to be terrible persons indeed” The Inangahua Times 1880 September 3 Vol. II New Zealand 2

“Mr. W. M. Clark asked the Chief Secretary if he would insert a clause in the proposed bill to abolish plural voting rendering it imperative on all Chinese that in addition to being naturalised they shall also be able to speak read and write the English language before they are qualified to vote at any election whatsoever” The Argus 1880 September 8 9

* “ ‘Atticus’ in the ‘Leader’ says” Grey River Argus 1880 September 10 2

“Prospectus of the North Midas Gold-Mining Company” The Argus 1886 July 10 14

“Sixth Schedule: I, the undersigned, hereby make application to register the Madame Kong Meng Gold-Mining Company as a no liability company under the provisions of the ‘The Mining Companies Act 1871’ ” The Argus 1887 February 11 8

“Australasian News: Victoria” Examiner 1888 January 20 Launceston 3

“Prospectus of the Outward Bound Consolidated Silver-Mining Company No Liability” The Argus 1888 February 11 14

“A lady in Adelaide who had had the charge of the education of the children of Mrs Kong Meng, of Melbourne, requested me when I was paying a visit to that city to call and see them with messages from her.” Inquirer & Commercial News 1888 June 13 5

“The Late Mr. Kong Meng” The Argus 1888 October 24 16

# “In Days of Old; Victoria’s First Chinaman; Story of the Gold Fever” The Sun 1918 May 12 5

“Bendigo Joss House Temple”

“Grant, James Macpherson”

Harris album “Thomas Bradley Harris Photo Album” — see pp. 23 27 28 for photographs of Kong Meng and family

“King, Mark Last”


Maurice Leong personal comment 2001.


Cited in Lake and Reynolds 2008: 37footnote 78.


In 1874Bent and Kong Meng were both provisional directors of the Hazelwood Coal-Mining Company (Argus 12 December 1874: 8). In mid-1880 Coppin and Kong Meng were both provisional directors of the Melbourne Fishmongers’ and Deep Sea Fishing Company (Argus 19 June 1880: 10).

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