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"The mysterious oriental mind": ethnic surveillance and the Chinese in Canada during the Great War.


This article examines the surveillance of the Chinese in Canada during the Great War, focusing on the experience of the Chinese Nationalist League (CNL), one of the largest Chinese political organizations in Canada. It examines the process by which Canadian surveillance officials came to view the country's Chinese population as dangerous and potentially subversive by the end of the Great War. Though in part a manifestation of the broad xenophobia that led to the oppression of other ethnic groups in Canada during the Great War, this article contends that suspicion of the Chinese was deeply rooted in traditional Western perceptions of the Chinese as a "sly," "devious," and "mysterious" race. These perceptions nourished suspicion of the Chinese and sustained the surveillance in the absence of substantive evidence implicating the CNL in seditious activities. The surveillance resulted in the suppression of the CNL and arrest of its leaders in September 1918.

Cet article examine la surveillance des chinois au Canada pendant la Grande Guerre, se concentrant sur l'experience de la ligue nationaliste chinoise (LNC), un des plus grands organismes politiques chinois au Canada. Il examine le processus par lequel les fonctionnaires canadiens de surveillance ont commence a regarder la population chinoise du pays comme dangereuse et potentiellement subversive vers la fin de la Grande Guerre. Cependant en partie une manifestation de la large xenophobie qui a menee a l'oppression d'autres groupes ethniques au Canada pendant la Grande Guerre, cet article affirme que le soupcon des chinois a ete profondement enracine dans des perceptions occidentales traditionnelles des chinois comme une race "rusee," "detournee," et "mysterieuse." Ces perceptions ont menees au soupcon des Chinois et ont soutenues la surveillance en l'absence de l'evidence substantive impliquant le LNC dans des activites seditieux. La surveillance a eu comme consequence la suppression du LNC et l'arrestation de ses chefs en septembre 1918.


On 1 September 1918, in Victoria, British Columbia, a local Chinese barber named Wong Chun assassinated Tang Hualong, a Chinese government minister traveling through Canada en route to China. Wong ambushed the Minister and his entourage and fatally shot Tang at close range, committing suicide at the scene after a failed attempt to shoot the Minister's secretary. (1) The assassin was a member of the Chinese Nationalist League (CNL), the North American wing of Sun Yat-sen's revolutionary movement and a vehement critic of Chinese Premier Duan Quiri. Tang, Speaker of the Chinese House of Representatives and Minister of Education and the Interior, was returning from an official visit to the United States intended to secure war loans for Peking, and as such, Wong's political affiliation became the main focus of the coroner's inquest. (2) Investigators deemed the act to have been politically motivated, and evaluation of the assassin's motive shortly evolved into an indictment of the CNL as a whole. Exercising powers available under the War Measures Act, the federal government banned the CNL, along with twelve other political organizations, under Order in Council PC 2384 in September 1918. (3)

Local media coverage of the assassination was quick to stress the peculiarly "oriental" nature of the crime. Headlines in the Victoria Daily Colonist declared, "Local Chinatown in a Ferment: Assassination of Tang Hua Lung Creates Great Excitement and Predictions Made of Further Trouble." The reporter noted that "an Oriental impassiveness characteristic of the Chinese" could not "hide the undercurrent of excitement" in Chinatown after the murder, and that despite their effort to "solve the real inwardness of the shooting," the police were unable to permeate "a seemingly impenetrable veil of mystery and silence" surrounding the event. The same reporter commented that Wong committed the murder "with a fatalism peculiar to the Oriental," and in the aftermath, Chinatown was "seething" and "rife" with speculation of retribution and further violence (Victoria Daily Colonist, 4 September 1918).

The perception of the Chinese as mysterious, devious, and violent so clearly evident in the media coverage of the assassination also informed the Canadian government's investigation of the CNL's culpability for the crime. This paper will discuss the investigation into the assassination and the subsequent ban of the CNL in the broader context of the surveillance of the Chinese in Canada during the Great War, and consider the extent to which Canadian surveillance officials were influenced by such racist perceptions. On the recommendation of the British government, which claimed to have evidence linking the organization to the cause of Indian revolution, Canadian security officials had maintained strict surveillance of the CNL in Canada since January 1916, and many involved in the surveillance accepted the assassination as clear proof of the subversive, violent, and unpredictable nature of the CNL. This judgement was not based on conventional proof of the organization's guilt: three years of surveillance had uncovered little more than mundane organizational correspondence, and while Wong Chun was a member of the Nationalist League, evidence linking the CNL as an organization to the assassination was circumstantial at best. Rather, suspicion of the subversive nature of the CNL and its involvement in the assassination rested on the pervasive belief that the Chinese were "wily individuals to deal with" and that the operations of the "mysterious oriental mind" were opaque to white observers. Firmly convinced of the essential racial gulf between the Chinese and white Canadians, investigators were less concerned with obtaining clear evidence of the CNL's involvement in subversive activity than with attempting to come to grips with the "psychology of the ignorant Chinese." (4) This in turn absolved Canadian investigators from the need to secure hard evidence to prove the CNL's guilt: rather than proving the organization's innocence, lack of such evidence was simply accepted as proof that the "sly" Chinese had found a way to circumvent the murder investigation and surveillance measures.

In some respects, the surveillance and suppression of the CNL reflected the broad atmosphere of xenophobia prevalent throughout Canada during the Great War. A variety of ethnic groups were targeted as potential threats to Canadian national security in this period, and the federal government acted against them swiftly and decisively. For example, thousands of Ukrainian and German nationals were interned in Canada throughout the duration of the war, while the Bolshevik Revolution and rise of labor radicalism in Canada in 1917-18 raised Ottawa's concern over the activities of Russian, Finnish, and other Central and Eastern European immigrants. (5) As Jeffrey Keshen noted, surveillance of non-Anglophone populations during the Great War "reflected and derived strength from long-established nativism" in Canadian society (Keshen 1996, 101). The surveillance network that investigated the activities of the CNL monitored a wide variety of different groups, and the Chinese were hardly unique as targets of surveillance and political repression.

At the same time, however, the measures taken against the CNL represent an episode in the long history of specifically anti-Chinese discrimination in Canada. Though many ethnic groups faced significant discrimination and assimilationist pressure prior to the Great War, no group faced as much sustained racist agitation and legal marginalization as the Chinese. Discriminatory Head Tax legislation in 1885, 1900, and 1903, laws denying the Chinese voting rights and restricting their vocational opportunities, and numerous outbursts of mob violence all targeted the Chinese as an unwelcome alien population incapable of assimilating into mainstream, Anglo-Canadian society (Roy 1976, 1989; Ward 2002; Li 1998). The language used by surveillance officials during the Great War clearly reveals a significant amount of ideological continuity with anti-Chinese discrimination prior to 1914, drawing upon well-established perceptions of the Chinese as a "cunning, secretive and treacherous" "race" that "shared a universal disregard for truth" (Roy 1989, 41: Ward 2002, 9). The widespread belief in the inherently deceitful and violent nature of the Chinese race, confirmed in the minds of Canadian authorities by the assassination of Tang Hualong, sustained the surveillance for several years in the absence of corroborating evidence and contributed heavily to the eventual proscription of the organization.


By the time Canadian officials commenced their surveillance of the organization in January 1916, the Chinese Nationalist League had grown into a significant force in Chinese-Canadian politics. Sun Yat-sen established the first Canadian branches of the CNL in Vancouver and Victoria on his visit to Canada in 1911 after establishing branches in New York, Chicago, and San Francisco in 1909-10 (Hsueh 1961). Sun struck a crucial and lucrative alliance with the largest Chinese political faction in Canada, the Zhigongtang, and vied for the financial and political support of Canada's Chinese with diplomatic representatives of the Qing government and other political factions such as the Bao Huang Hui, or the "Chinese Empire Reform Association." (6) Sun's fundraising efforts in Canada were richly rewarded: the Chinese in Canada contributed HK$100,000 to his revolutionary cause, a total that far exceeded the contribution of Chinese elsewhere in the diaspora. (7)

The success of the 1911 Chinese Revolution ushered in an era of growth for the CNL in Canada. The CNL no longer had to compete for political influence with diplomatic representatives of the Qing government, while the Bao Huang Hui quickly reorganized as the Xianzhengdang (Constitutionalist Party), though it lost most of its supporters after 1911. The CNL was thus able to secure its position as a prominent political force in Canada, and by 1914, the organization operated forty-one branches across the country. Though twenty-eight of them were in British Columbia, the CNL could claim at least a nominal presence in every region of Canada, with five branches in Alberta, four in Ontario, two in Quebec, and one each in Manitoba and Nova Scotia (Con et al. 1982), This expansion continued throughout the Great War as well, and by 1919, the CNL operated fifty-six branches across Canada, with an estimated membership of six to eight thousand (Con et al. 1982; Victoria Times, 26 February 1919).

The CNL's expansion in this period, however, was not uncontested. The organization's alliance with the Zhigongtang, so crucial to the success of Sun's fundraising efforts in Canada, gave way to rivalry as the group claimed that it had not been adequately rewarded by Sun for its contribution to the successful revolution (Wickberg 1980). More significantly, Sun failed in his bid to retain power in China. By November 1913, Yuan Shikai had defeated pro-Guomindang military forces in China and driven the revolutionary leader into exile (Spence 1999). Sun once again turned to the Chinese diaspora for financial support, while the new Chinese president issued instructions in January 1914 to his overseas diplomatic officials to "request that meetings of Chinese rebel refugees should be suppressed, rebel leaders deported and the sale of arms and ammo to Chinese prohibited." (8)

The Chinese consular officials, now representing the government of Yuan Shikai, commenced a sustained effort to undermine the CNL's activities in Canada. (9) Consul General Yang Shuwen began with a direct appeal to Prime Minister Borden to prohibit the sale of arms and ammunition to Chinese resident in Canada and to ban the export of such goods to China (Borden Papers [hereafter BP] #100260, #100264). Vancouver Consul Lin Shiyuan focused his efforts on undermining the CNL's activities in British Columbia, beginning with an attempt to convince Canadian authorities to prohibit the circulation of the CNL's official organ, the New Republic newspaper. On 2 March 1915, Lin attempted to persuade Victoria Postmaster Harry Bishop to close "his majesty's mails to this malicious" and "mischievous" publication that sought to sow "the seeds of sedition and confusion among the Chinese in Canada," taking his appeal directly to the Deputy Postmaster General of Canada when Bishop refused to comply. (10) One month later, Lin targeted the issue of "seditious addresses" in Vancouver's Chinatown, asking the mayor to ban meetings and assemblies of Chinese in Vancouver that had not received prior approval from the consulate. Lin also actively investigated arms smuggling from British Columbia to China, making his government's wish that all such offenders be dealt with "severely" known to Canadian authorities. (11)

The credibility of the Chinese consular officials, however, was severely undermined in August 1915 when the Russian Ambassador in London reported to the British government that Chinese diplomats in Vancouver were involved in espionage, receiving coded messages from the Chinese Foreign Minister and passing them along to enemy agents in North America. This allegation prompted British Colonial Secretary Andrew Bonar Law to request that the Chinese consulate in Vancouver be "kept under observation," and the Chief Press Censor initiated a censorship of all coded telegrams to and from the consulate. (12) Suspicion of the consular officials remained strong over the next three years, and the surveillance was maintained through the end of the war. When the Chief Press Censor inquired whether it was necessary to maintain the surveillance in October 1918, a full year after China's declaration of war against Germany, the Secretary of State told Chambers to continue the surveillance because it was still "not possible to trust in their integrity sufficiently." (13)

Overall, the consular officials' efforts to suppress CNL activity in Canada in 1914-15 failed to find a receptive audience. Vancouver City Council did grant Lin's request to regulate Chinese meetings in the city, but otherwise the consuls received little satisfaction (Con et al. 1982). The Chinese government carried little diplomatic weight with either Canada or Britain, and federal officials regarded the political struggle between Peking and the CNL as a Chinese domestic issue with few ramifications for Canada. As Chief Press Censor Ernest Chambers would later comment, Canada was under no obligation to "pull chestnuts out of the fire for the Chinese government." (14) Throughout 1914-15, the Canadian government saw little in the CNL's activities that posed a threat to Canadian interests. This perception changed over the course of the Great War, beginning with the commencement of the surveillance of the organization in January 1916.


On 19 January 1916, the Chief Press Censor initiated a surveillance of the CNL's telegraphic correspondence. (15) This measure had little to do with continued diplomatic pressure from Peking: rather, the surveillance was initiated as a result of investigations into a possible link between the CNL and Indian nationalists in North America, an issue of grave concern for Imperial authorities by 1916. In the wake of the failed Ghadar uprising in India in December 1914, British government officials in China launched an investigation into Chinese support for Indian nationalists (Johnston 1979, 1988). The British Minister in Peking, Sir John Jordan, issued a report to the British Foreign Office in August 1915 detailing extensive links between Germany, China, and the cause of Indian revolution. The report detailed various attempts to smuggle arms from China to India, outlined German efforts to recruit Chinese Muslims to launch a holy war against the British in India, and identified German efforts to recruit emigrant Indian laborers in Hankou and Tianjin to the cause of Indian insurrection (Dignan 1983). A subsequent memorandum further identified Shanghai as "the centre of a widespread organization for fomenting sedition and raising an armed rebellion in India," with the German consul in Shanghai commanding a network of German agents, "disaffected British Indian subjects," and Chinese revolutionaries with pan-Asian sympathies (Trotter 1994, 121).

In response to these concerns, the British government sent Robert Nathan, a retired India Office official, as an undercover operative to investigate Indian revolutionary activity in North America, including possible links between Chinese and Indian nationalists. (16) Nathan worked closely in Canada with the Chief Press Censor as well as with Malcolm Reid, Dominion Immigration Inspector for British Columbia, who had maintained a close watch on Indian nationalists on the Pacific Coast since the assassination of his predecessor in October 1914 (Johnston 1979, 1988). From the outset, investigation of the CNL's links to Indian sedition was informed by a pervasive fear of the threat posed by the proverbial "yellow peril" to both Canadian and Imperial interests. Reid commented in April 1916 that there had been "considerable talk along the Pacific Coast of an amalgamation of the Oriental rates such as the Chinese, Japanese and Hindus for the good of the yellow races." Reid also initiated an investigation into the Mun Hay Weekly, a New York based newspaper operated by the CNL with a small circulation in British Columbia. He reported that the CNL's "larger purpose," as reported by Mun Hay Weekly editor Chu S. Gunn, was to free "Asia for the Asiatics" and to "make China a power," commenting that China's sympathy was naturally with its "sister country," India, in its struggle for liberation. (17) This sentiment was rendered even more sinister when Reid claimed to have uncovered a direct link between the CNL and Germany. Betraying little understanding of the complexities of Republican Chinese politics, Reid dismissed the Chinese revolutionary movement as a German conspiracy to "keep the east in turmoil" and would later claim to have evidence that the CNL was "backed financially by Germans." Within the first four months of the surveillance, Reid reported that he was "fully satisfied" that a connection existed between Indian and Chinese revolutionary groups, with German support, in Canada. (18)

However, while evidence of the CNL's sympathy for the cause of Indian independence may have been abundant, clear proof linking the organization to German agents or Indian nationalists was sparse. As was the case with the surveillance of Indian nationalists in the same period, the surveillance of the CNL's telegraphic messages revealed little more than mundane correspondence, such as congratulatory messages celebrating the opening of new branches or the coordination of fundraising activity (Johnston 1988), The lack of evidence was such that the Chief Press Censor soon grew skeptical of its utility. In April 1916, Chambers, while acknowledging that the censored messages were doubtless "important from the Chinese point of view," commented that he had seen nothing to suggest the CNL posed a threat to Canadian or Imperial interests and threatened to cease the surveillance altogether. Robert Nathan persuaded Chambers to continue the operation, declaring that London was prepared "to spend considerable amounts of money and use some of [its] most eminent men in tracing up some clues given by these messages." (19)

The continued suspicion of the CNL despite a lack of evidence reflects in part the extent to which surveillance officials were influenced by a pervasive belief in the essential facial gulf between "White" and "Chinese." This belief, though manifested in different forms and degrees of intensity, nurtured suspicion of the CNL and sustained the surveillance in the face of a failure to uncover conventional evidence. Malcolm Reid, for example, was heavily influenced by the discourse of proverbial Chinese treachery and deceit and was one of the CNL's most unrelenting critics. Reid clearly believed himself to be an expert observer of Chinese politics in Canada and insisted the CNL was involved in subversive activity throughout the war, refusing to let the failure of the telegraphic surveillance deter him. In April 1916, for example, Reid conceded in a letter to Percy Sherwood that "it is quite true that very little has been discovered to show that the Chinese are pro-German;" however, Reid also stressed that "we do not know what the code messages have contained along these lines." A lack of evidence thus did not absolve the CNL from guilt, but rather suggested that the organization had found a way to circumvent the surveillance measures. Reid buttressed his position with isolated and esoteric messages, such as one intercepted in October 1917 from the CNL's Calgary branch that stated "Be secret. Don't proclaim." From this arcane telegram, Reid offered the sweeping conclusion that the CNL "impresses on its members the necessity of great secrecy in their matters." He condemned Chinese "advocacy of rabid political doctrines," contending that it was incumbent upon the government not to allow Chinese "plots to be hatched" in Canada, and he advocated "strong measures" against the organization, noting that the Chinese "take leniency for weakness and show great respect for arbitrary forces." (20)

Though less inclined to indulge in such inflammatory anti-Chinese rhetoric, the Chief Press Censor also clearly believed in the essential difference between the Chinese and Anglo-Saxon "races." This belief, however, did not manifest into the single-minded hostility so apparent in Reid's correspondence; as noted, Chambers was originally skeptical of the utility of the surveillance, and the Chief Press Censor actually acted as a lone voice of moderation in defense of the organization on a number of occasions. Chinese diplomatic officials, with the support of Victoria lawyer H.W. Herschner, continued to press for the prohibition of the New Republic during the winter of 1916-17, but Chambers refused to take action against it on the basis that it had not contravened Canadian censorship laws. (21) Chambers also stressed that Chinese resident in Canada exercised their franchise in China and thus had the right to debate politics and criticize the Chinese government. He detailed his position in a memo to Deputy Postmaster General R.M. Coulter, noting that Canadian surveillance officials had to make "allowances" for "vagaries of translation," speculating that "a considerable proportion of the political editorials in Canadian newspapers ... would probably appear very blood-thirsty to the Chinese reader." Chambers' hesitancy to act persisted even after the assassination of Tang Hualong had convinced most of his associates of the CNL's subversive agenda. While he was more receptive to the charges made against the organization near the end of the war, he continued to stress the New Republic's right to engage in the "freest and fullest discussions of political issues" relating to China, and as late as March 1919 (rive months after the suppression of the CNL) commented that a thorough investigation had failed to prove that the newspaper had "published matter which [could] be declared objectionable" from the standpoint of censorship regulations. In Chambers' view, "allowances [had] to be made for the Oriental mind and mode of expression;" condemnation of the CNL on the basis of inflammatory articles published in its official organ was problematic because non-Chinese observers could never fully appreciate the intricacies of Chinese political debate. (22)

It was this ambiguity, however, that prevented Chambers from ever fully absolving the CNL from suspicion. As Jeffrey Keshen has noted, the Chief Press Censor's perceptions of the Chinese were informed "in part" by "racist preconceptions about proverbial Chinese treachery and deceit" (Keshen 1996, 103). Chambers commented that the Chinese were "wily individuals to deal with" and seemed genuinely mystified by what he referred to as the "mysterious oriental mind." He commented that the "oriental mind is ... a peculiar one" and cautioned that the "operations of Chinese politicians are beyond out understanding." (23) This uncertainty rendered the Chinese, with "their keen political fights" transplanted to Canada, a potential threat to Canadian security, and Chambers expressed concern about being "taken in flank by hostile Chinese publications" in 1917. (24) He warned the editor of the Chinese Times, a Chinese language newspaper published in Vancouver by the Zhingongtang, not to "slyly deviate the least particle from the lines of truth and loyalty," and despite his substantial reservations about the quality of the evidence against the CNL and the New Republic, was unwilling to give the publication "a clean bill of health." Though presented with little substantive evidence implicating the CNL, Chambers concurred with Reid that the "Chinese Revolutionary movement [was] a very active one" and ultimately was unwilling to reject the possibility that it posed a threat to Canadian national security. (25)

The belief amongst surveillance officials that they could never fully come to terms with the "mysterious oriental mind," coupled with the widespread belief in an innate Chinese tendency toward violence and deceit, proved to be fertile ground for the escalation of suspicion against the CNL and the Chinese population of Canada in general. From late 1916 onward, Canadian surveillance officials began to re-evaluate the threat posed by the CNL, as many began to believe that this threat was now internal rather than external. The first significant catalyst in this regard came on 8 October 1916 when a riot broke out at a meeting of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (CCBA) in Victoria. Members of the CNL disrupted the meeting to protest the outcome of the organization's executive elections, resulting in a melee after which ten Chinese were arrested on charges of aggravated assault and rioting (Victoria Times, 21 November 1916).

The riot was the first serious incident of political violence in Victoria's Chinese community since the outbreak of the Great War, and in its wake the Chinese consular officials renewed their attack on the CNL, Unable to have the New Republic banned under Canadian censorship regulations, the Chinese consular officials attempted to pressure the Canadian government to act against the CNL and its official organ on the basis that they represented a threat to peace and stability in Canada. Vancouver vice-consul David Lew retained the services of Victoria lawyer H.W. Herschner to represent the Chinese consulate, offering him an additional $250 reward if he could successfully persuade Canadian authorities to suppress the New Republic. Over a period of several months in late 1916 and early 1917, Herschner made a sustained effort to convince Chief Press Censor Chambers and Captain C. Tweedale, Chief District Intelligence Officer for Victoria, of the subversive and potentially dangerous nature of the New Republic and the CNL. Herschner accused the editors of the newspaper of causing the Victoria riot by publishing a series of "malicious inciting editorials" in the weeks leading up to the CCBA meeting, providing translations of the editorials in question, including one which allegedly advocated the murder of CCBA President Low Gee Quai. (26)

Herschner made reference to the Vancouver consul's previous appeals to have the New Republic banned, but claimed that the threat posed by the publication had evolved since 1915. He conceded that the New Republic had primarily represented a threat to the stability of the Chinese government in the past, but argued that it had now evolved into "a menace against the good government of [Canada]" and a threat to "internal public tranquillity." He argued that the publication incited the "ignorant and rowdy element amongst the Chinese" to acts of violence, a threat that had the potential to "bring about Tong wars in the Province." His condemnation also noted that "wherever trouble is created among our foreign population it is due to the work of German agents" and commented that Canada's "enemies would hail with pleasure local disturbances among the foreign element in the Dominion" which might require "the whole military force of the Province" to quell. (27)

Herschner found a receptive audience in Tweedale, who endorsed the lawyer's arguments and advocated immediate action against the New Republic. Tweedale argued that the publication should be investigated as an "act of courtesy" to a "friendly neutral power" and agreed with Herschner that the Chinese revolutionary movement was a German conspiracy. Tweedale was particularly concerned that the publication might incite "Tong warfare" in British Columbia, commenting to Chambers that "as there are in the neighborhood of some 10,000 Chinese in the province, the trouble might assume proportions of some magnitude." (28) Chambers sought the opinion of the Office of the Solicitor General, which agreed that publications such as the New Republic were "very dangerous" in that they "incite not only to revolution in China, but also to acts in furtherance or towards the inception thereof, within Canada." (29)

In the end, the renewed efforts to have the New Republic banned failed, as Chambers was unimpressed with the case presented against it by Herschner and the consular officials. Thornten Fell, legal representative of the CNL and the New Republic, provided Chambers with evidence that Herschner was using incorrect translations of the allegedly inflammatory editorials supplied by the Vancouver vice-consul. (30) This revelation, coupled with the continued surveillance of the consular officials on suspicion of espionage, was sufficient for Chambers to dismiss the complaint, and the New Republic was not suppressed. While this particular effort failed in its immediate objective, it did find a receptive audience among some surveillance officials and raised for the first time the possibility that the Chinese revolutionary organization posed a threat to the security and public order of Canada.


This perceived threat escalated significantly in late 1917 as Canada became involved in a scheme to ship Chinese laborers to Europe. Facing an acute manpower shortage, the British and French governments negotiated with Peking in the summer of 1916 for the right to recruit Chinese workers for manual labor on the Western Front. Recruitment centres were established in Qingdao and Weihaiwei, and by the end of 1918, 96,000 Chinese were working in France. Early shipments were sent through the Suez Canal, but German submarine activity in the Mediterranean made that route too dangerous, and British authorities decided to ship the workers across the Pacific, transport them across Canada by rail, and then ship them across the Atlantic where they would have the protection of naval convoys (Spence 1999; Summerskill 1982). This plan was approved, and between April 1917 and Match 1918, nearly 75,000 Chinese laborers were shipped across Canada. (31)

These shipments raised significant security concerns for Canadian authorities, who feared that the CNL or other Chinese hostile to the labor shipments might sabotage them. To prevent "tampering with the coolies" by "agents of the enemy or of certain revolutionary organizations in China" with Canadian branches, Chief Press Censor Chambers told telegraph companies and newspaper editors that it was "highly desirable" to keep their passage through Canada secret. (32) Concern over the threat of "certain revolutionary organizations" was a clear reference to the CNL, and Sun Yat-sen emerged as a vocal critic of the use of Chinese labor in Europe (Sun Yat-sen 1994). However, the only actual incident of alleged CNL interference with the labor shipments came in January 1918 when Canadian authorities learned that a Chinese interpreter in Vancouver was spreading false rumors about the true destination of the laborers. An investigation revealed that CNL member Leung Shou Yat told incoming Chinese workers that ten percent of the laborers sent to France had been "drafted as first line fighting men for service in the front trenches." Though it soon emerged that Leung's motives were personal rather than political, Canadian and Imperial authorities took the case very seriously. Leung had corresponded with a newspaper in Weihaiwei, which promptly printed his rumors as fact, and British authorities were concerned that "enemy agents and pacifists in China" used such reports to undermine recruitment in China. The case was forwarded to the War Office, which determined that there was insufficient evidence to take legal action against Leung, but recommended that a "strict censorship of this individual's correspondence" be maintained to ensure that he did not create further trouble. (33)

The Canadian government's concern over the security of the labor shipments, however, was not limited to suspicion of the CNL. Chambers commented that "there are elements among the laboring classes which are understood to be opposed to the sending of these coolies to Europe." Malcolm Reid raised particular concern over the activities of Vancouver vice-consul David Lew, who Reid described as a "menace." Reid observed Lew meeting with a suspected German spy in Seattle and Canadian labor leaders such as James McVety, supposedly all part of a broader conspiracy to disrupt the labor shipments. (34) At a June 1917 meeting of the Trades and Labour Council in Vancouver, delegate William Yates denounced the labor shipments and accused the CPR of diverting several hundred Chinese workers to use as labor on CPR lines in Saskatchewan. One of Reid's operatives launched an investigation into Yates, but was unable to "ascertain that he plays the double game." (35)

More significantly, however, Canadian surveillance officials grew increasingly wary of the Chinese population of Canada in general. As per guidelines established before the war, mail to and from neutral countries during wartime was subject to censorship, and as China did not declare war on the central powers until August 1917, mail to and from China was subject to this regulation (Keshen 1996). Intercepted Chinese mail was not a source of widespread concern to Canadian authorities until April 1917, when surveillance officials intercepted correspondence that expressed vehement opposition to the labor shipments. Two letters intercepted from Chinese resident in Vancouver warned family members in Canton not to trust Allied recruiting agents in China. Another correspondent commented that ten thousand Chinese were already working in "the battlefield in Russia" where they were "undergoing untold sufferings" and speculated that the laborers en route to Canada would be "transferred to France and no doubt get served the same fate." Others expressed admiration for Germany, commenting that "no country in the world tan conquer her" and that China would "surfer by joining the Allies." A final correspondent turned the venom of his attack against the Chinese laborers themselves, remarking that they "deserve to die." (36)

No acts of sabotage were carried out, and the archival record yields no evidence of significant efforts to interfere with the labor shipments other than the relatively minor incident concerning the Chinese interpreter in Vancouver. However, in the judgement of surveillance authorities, the seized letters revealed clear opposition to the labor shipments and represented an internal threat to Canada's contribution to the war effort. The Chief Press Censor was particularly impressed: he commented that the attitude of the Chinese in Canada toward the war was "unaccountably hostile" and "remarkably antagonistic." He noted that the intercepted correspondence "indicate[d] a remarkable desire to prevent this movement" and claimed to have seen "translations of several letters urging prominent Canadian Chinamen to endeavor to induce the coollies en route to desert." The letters were sufficient to convince him of the "great importance of preventing the Chinese in transit from coming into connection with Chinese resident in Canada." (37) Sherwood and Nathan agreed, and on their recommendation, a "blanket order" was issued to telegraphic companies to furnish copies of all "Chinese messages, commercial or otherwise, of government interest" to the Chief Press Censor. (38) This represented a significant expansion of the surveillance operations, which now went beyond political affiliation to encompass the correspondence of an entire ethnic group. The surveillance continued to fail to uncover any evidence of subversive activity, but the expansion of the operation reflected a deepening distrust of the Chinese population of Canada as a whole. (39)


It was in this context of fear and suspicion that the assassination of Tang Hualong occurred in September 1918. The investigation was in many ways a microcosm of the surveillance as a whole: sparse and circumstantial evidence was deemed sufficient to condemn the CNL, despite the fact that many of the investigators themselves expressed skepticism regarding the quality of the evidence collected. Once again, investigators rationalized their failure to secure hard corroborating evidence by arguing that the evidence had to be interpreted in a racially specific manner, viewed through a lens of Oriental difference.

The investigation and decision to ban the CNL did not occur in isolation, and to some extent the organization was a victim of unfortunate timing. To begin, the assassination occurred mere days after the Chinese consul general once again took his appeal for action against the CNL directly to Prime Minister Borden. Consul General Yang Shuwen wrote to Borden in an effort to persuade him to immediately suppress the CNL because its operations hampered the "activities of the Chinese government ... as an ally." Yang accused the CNL of opposing the war effort and of continuing to provide financial and material support to revolutionaries in China. The credibility of the Chinese diplomats remained very love, and the surveillance of their coded correspondence continued throughout the war. However, the timing of the assassination gave the renewed accusations against the CNL increased potency, and the recent correspondence between Yang and Borden on the issue was cited as one of the factors that led to the ban of the CNL. (40)

Further, the swift and decisive response of the Canadian government to the assassination was indicative of Prime Minister Borden's broader commitment in late 1918 to crush the perceived threat posed by immigrant populations. Widespread labor unrest in Canada in 1917-18 placed the Canadian government under great pressure to act against labor organizations, most of which drew their strongest support from immigrant populations. The Ukrainian Social Democratic Party, for example, organized a major strike of construction workers in Winnipeg in 1917 and called for the formation of "soviets" and "soldier's and worker's councils" in Canada in early 1918 (McCormack 1977). After the ratification of the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk between Germany and Russia in May 1918, the Prime Minister believed that Bolshevism would "shortly undertake a major North American thrust" (Keshen 1996). Borden responded by hiring Montreal lawyer C.H. Cahan to investigate this threat, whose September 1918 report to the Prime Minister identified Canada's immigrant populations as the source of the Bolshevik threat to the country (Kealey 1992; Avery 1979). To counter this threat, Cahan recommended the outright suppression of a number of political parties, that the "right of search" for police and government investigators be widely extended, and that the Canadian government adopt a more "stringent ... security policy" (McCormack 1977, 151). Borden concurred that Cahan's findings merited "immediate and vigorous action," and Cahan's recommendations became the basis of two sweeping Orders in Council; PC 2381, which banned publications in twelve "enemy" languages, including Russian, Finnish, and Ukrainian, and PC 2384, which gave the police broad powers to suppress thirteen outlawed organizations, including the CNL (BP #56683). Order in Council PC 2384 made membership in any of the restricted organizations, retroactive to the beginning of the war, a crime punishable by a fine of up to $5,000 and a prison term of up to five years. Police were given the right to raid, without a warrant, "any premises or place owned or suspected to be owned or occupied by an unlawful association." (41) In addition, the Public Safety Branch of the Department of Justice was established on 2 October 1918, with Cahan as director, "for the preservation of public order and safety during the continuance of the War" (Kealey 1992, 188).

The primary mandate of the Public Safety Branch was the enforcement of the recently passed Orders in Council, and while Cahan's investigations focused primarily on the threat posed by immigrant labor groups, the assassination of Tang Hualong soon drew his attention to the activities of the CNL. Cahan was quickly convinced of the subversive nature of the CNL and reported to Prime Minister Borden that the CNL had sanctioned and carried out the assassination with the "full approval" of league members. Indeed, Cahan deemed the threat posed by the CNL to be sufficient to justify the need to expand the Public Safety Branch and "make special expenditures ... for the purpose of fully investigating the activities of the Chinese Nationalist League and its subsidiary Societies" (BP #136360-61: Kealey 1992).

Cahan's indictment of the CNL was based largely on an examination of the New Republic, which in his view "directly incited the murder" by publishing a number of inflammatory editorials on 1 September 1918 that "slyly" suggested that the Chinese minister would by "punished" for his traitorous support of Premier Duan Qirui. None of the editorials in the New Republic explicitly advocated the murder of Tang Hualong: the "suspicious" editorials consisted of vague metaphors and innuendo. For example, an article entitled "Tang Hua Lung Has Come Again" condemned the Chinese minister for his visit to the United States and closed with the statement that the writer was going "to watch for further developments." From this, Cahan concluded that the article's author "knew of the intended attempt upon the life" of Tang Hualong. Another article entitled "Remarkable Wonders" questioned the purpose of Tang's North American visit and suggested that his efforts to secure an American loan would fail. Cahan reported that the article's author implied "to the Chinese reader that the Chinese Minister should be dealt with so that the money, if any, borrowed in the United States should never reach his hands." Perhaps the most unusual article was entitled "A Letter from the Target Man to the Bullet, Thanking It" which, in Cahan's estimation, proved beyond a doubt that all Chinese readers of the article would understand "that a lire was to be taken by a bullet" (BP #135355-59).

Cahan's firm conviction notwithstanding, the collection of evidence used to condemn the CNL's involvement in the crime was hardly impressive. While the assassin was an active CNL member, there was no evidence that explicitly linked the organization to the crime (Keshen 1996; Wickberg 1980; Con et al. 1982). The censorship of the CNL's correspondence yielded no evidence that the organization had sanctioned the act, and evidence seized in police raids after the 1918 ban cast some doubt on the organization's culpability. A letter seized during a police raid on CNL President Zhen Shuyuan's home in December 1918 indicated that the assassination caught the CNL leadership by surprise. The letter stated that the murder was the "work of a few members of the League" and stressed that League members, to avoid the wrath of the Canadian government, would have to "obey Canadian law" and "keep quiet and not foolishly make any more troubles." (42) Further, Canadian investigators were unable to secure the testimony of any witnesses to confirm the CNL's role in the conspiracy. The anonymous special operator #220, who investigated the case for the Department of Immigration, claimed to have a witness named Poon Loi who "accidentally" found himself at the meeting where the plot to murder Tang was conceived. Poon Loi was unwilling to testify, and the special operator lamented that he did not have access to adequate funds to procure some opium and get him "on his pipe" in order to "loosen his tongue." The special operator frankly confessed to his superiors that investigations had been unsuccessful, and advised that the only way to obtain "first class evidence" to get "to the bottom of the plot" would be to create dissension amongst the Chinese by suppressing the CNL and the New Republic. (43) After reviewing the evidence compiled by investigators, the Crown Prosecutor of Ontario reported that he was "not enthusiastic about getting results" in prosecuting CNL members arrested in Toronto (BP #136362).

A lack of corroborating evidence did little to deter Cahan, however, who was convinced of the CNL's culpability on the basis of the New Republic articles. Cahan stressed the significance of these articles in his report to Borden, informing the Prime Minister that it was "in this facetious manner that assassination is anticipated by the Chinese" and that these editorials, while opaque to non-Chinese readers, would be perfectly clear to a Chinese audience (BP #136358). Similarly, at the coroner's inquest into Tang's death, Victoria Coroner F.T. Stanier phrased a number of his questions in a racially specific manner. Stanier gave a copy of the New Republic to a Chinese juror and asked him if the articles could be characterized as "incendiary" or "likely to cause trouble, or to excite your people," to which the juror simply responded that he was unable to say. (44) The aforementioned special operator #220 also employed this racially specific perspective in his investigations of the New Republic, which continued to publish in the weeks following the ban of the CNL. The operator presented Malcolm Reid with copies of the October 2 edition of the newspaper with translations of articles he feared might cause further trouble. One article caused him particular concern. Though he conceded that the "article [was] not directly inciting," its goal was to "foster a spirit of being prepared to give up their life ... for the cause." This hidden message would only be clear, however, to one who "understands the psychology of the ignorant Chinese." Echoing Reid's earlier caution that the Chinese took "leniency for weakness," the special operator advocated "drastic action" to prevent further trouble and predicted that if such action was not levied against the CNL, "one day one of the more fanatical of their members will be murdering some of the local Chinese citizens." (45)

The Canadian government responded to the recommendations of Cahan and other investigators and took swift and heavy-handed action against the CNL. Police used the powers granted under PC 2384 to launch a national raid on the CNL, which continued to operate clandestinely in defiance of the ban, in December 1918. In Victoria, a force of city police, military police, and federal secret service agents raided the city's CNL headquarters, the offices of the New Republic, and over a dozen private residences on 14 December 1918, while similar raids were carried out in Vancouver and Toronto (Victoria Daily Colonist, 14 December 1918). Photographs, correspondence, and other documents were seized and sent to Ottawa for translation. The police focused their attention on prominent CNL leaders rather than rank and file members, and the police raids resulted in the arrest and prosecution of forty-two people. The ban remained in place for approximately six months. (46)


A variety of national and international forces shaped the surveillance and suppression of the CNL during the Great War. The surveillance was initiated as a result of British imperial concerns over possible links between Chinese and Indian nationalists as part of a German-financed plot to foment revolution in India. The sustained diplomatic effort to convince Ottawa to suppress the CNL and the assassination of Tang Hualong were intimately related to the turbulent politics in China during this period. And the surveillance network and oppressive legislation used to monitor and ban the CNL were both manifestations of the widespread xenophobic concern over the potential threat posed by immigrant populations to Canadian national security during the Great War.

In the context of anti-Chinese discrimination in Canada, however, the surveillance and ban of the CNL represents an important and unique episode that reveals the ease with which the perceived threat of the Chinese population of Canada evolved. This episode did not follow the typical pattern of pre-war, anti-Chinese discrimination, which was largely the result of a symbiotic relationship between popular protest and government intervention. Public agitation, often led by opportunistic politicians and sometimes accompanied by violence, targeted the Chinese as an economic, demographic, health, and/or moral threat to the development of a "white" Canada, threats that were confirmed and validated by various levels of government that responded with legal restrictions that "affirm[ed] the identity and privilege of a White Canadian in-group" (Anderson 1991, 247; Roy 1989, 13-36). This process ceased for the duration of the war; though government restrictions and legislation that defined the Chinese as a separate racial group remained in place throughout, the almost complete cessation of Chinese immigration to Canada between 1914 and 1918 removed the primary catalyst for popular anti-Asian agitation. This would change immediately after the war with the renewal of public agitation against the Chinese and the passage of the 1923 Chinese Immigration Act, effectively excluding Chinese immigrants from entering Canada until its repeal in 1947 (Ward 2002).

At the same time, however, the language used by Canadian surveillance officials to describe their Chinese targets reveals a great deal of ideological continuity with the pre-war period. Concern over the activities of the "wily," "mysterious," and "sly" Chinese reveals the extent to which Canadian surveillance officials were informed by the same basic perception of Chinese "otherness" so prevalent in other examples of anti-Chinese discrimination prior to the Great War. These racist assumptions fuelled the surveillance and allowed those responsible for conducting it to reconcile the need to keep the CNL under strict observation with the fact that they had uncovered little meaningful evidence to implicate it. Expressions of sympathy for Indian independence thus revealed a broader pan-Asian conspiracy; individual episodes of political violence represented the harbinger of "Tong Wars" that had the potential to create widespread disorder throughout British Columbia; and most significantly, a lack of substantive corroborating evidence intensified suspicion of the CNL rather than suggesting its innocence. Nourished by several years of suspicion and investigation, in an atmosphere of heightened concern over the potential threat of the country's immigrant populations in general, the assassination appeared to fit into a clear pattern of violent and dangerous activity planned and carried out by the CNL. By September 1918, the evolution of the Canadian government's perception of the threat posed by the Chinese Nationalist League, and the subversive potential of the Chinese in Canada in general, was complete.


This paper was presented at CESA's Seventeenth Biennial Conference, "Ethnicity: Space and Place," held at Banff Alberta, October 2-5, 2003. I would like to thank Hugh Johnston, Leo Shin, and the two anonymous reviewers from Canadian Ethnic Studies/Etudies ethniques au Canada for their helpful feedback and suggestions.


(1.) Victoria Daily Colonist, 5 September 1918. Tang's entourage consisted of his personal secretary, Ho Te Hui, a Chinese student from the University of Washington named Fei Lin, and the Chinese consular representative for Vancouver.

(2.) Toronto Globe, 3 September 1918. Information pertaining to Tang Hualong's position in the Chinese government taken from the Coroner's Inquest in to the Death of Tang Hualong, 4 September 1918, Testimony of Ho Te-hui, p. 5 (British Columbia Archives and Records Service [hereafter BCARS], GR 1327, File 166/1918).

(3.) A total of thirteen organizations were banned under PC 2384: The Industrial Workers of the World, The Russian Social Democratic Party, The Russian Revolutionary Group, The Russian Social Revolutionists, The Russian Workers Union, The Ukrainian Social Democratic Party, The Social Democratic Party, The Social Labor Party, The Group of Social Democrats of Bolsheviki, The Group of Social Democrats of Anarchists, The Workers International Industrial Union, The Chinese Labor Association, and The Chinese National League. For a full text of PC 2384, see Frances Swyripa and John Herd Thompson, eds., Loyalties in Conflict: Ukrainians in Canada During the Great War (Edmonton: Canadian Institute of Ukrainian Studies, 1983), 193-196.

(4.) National Archives of Canada (hereafter NAC), RG 6, E, Chief Press Censor for Canada: Vol. 86, File 246-1/246-2: Chief Press Censor Ernest Chambers to Immigration Inspector Malcolm Reid, 16 February 1916; Chambers to Reid, 4 September 1916; Report of Immigration Department Special Operator #220, enclosed in a letter from Reid to Chambers, 3 October 1918.

(5.) In total, nearly 8,600 individuals were interned in Canada during the Great War: 2,009 Germans, 5,954 Austro-Hungarians (overwhelmingly Ukrainian), 205 Turks, 99 Bulgarians, and 312 listed as miscellaneous. See Donald Avery, "Dangerous Foreigners:" European Immigrant Workers and Labor Radicalism in Canada, 1896-1932 (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1979), 66; Gregory S. Kealey, "State Repression of Labor and the Left in Canada, 1914-1920: The Impact of the First World War," Canadian Historical Review 73, no. 3 (1993), 285-6, 293; and Peter Melnycky, "The Internment of Ukrainians in Canada," in Swyripa and Thompson, eds., Loyalties in Conflict, 1-24.

(6.) Harry Con, Ronald J. Con, Graham Johnson, Edgar Wickberg, and William E. Willmott, From China to Canada: A History of the Chinese Communities in Canada (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1982), 74-75, 110-11. The Zhigongtang was a Chinese secret society that had a significant presence in Canada by the time of the Great War. Between 1885 and 1914, the society established over forty branches with an estimated national membership of between 10,000 and 20,000. The Qing government established consular representation in Canada after the 1907 riot in Vancouver's Chinatown, opening consulates in Ottawa and Vancouver in 1909. The Chinese Empire Reform Association was established in Victoria in 1899 by exiled reformer Kang Youwei, and by 1904, it operated twelve branches in Canada with a membership of approximately 7,000. For information regarding the contributions of the Zhigongtang to Sun's fundraising efforts, see Chuen-Yan David Lai, "Contribution of the Zhigongtang in Canada to the Huanghuagang Uprising in Canton, 1911," Canadian Ethnic Studies/Etudies ethniques au Canada 14, no. 3 (1982), 95-104.

(7.) Con et al., From China to Canada, 103 and 115n5, based on an estimate from Lee Tung-hai. Stanley (1996) quotes the figure of $35,000 Canadian (HK$100,000) as well, but some other sources estimate a lower contribution. Wilbur (1976) cites a total of HK$70,000, Lai (1982) cites HK$64,000, and Hsueh (1961) estimates the total at HK$63,000. Even the lowest estimate, however, far outstrips the contribution of much larger overseas Chinese populations. The Chinese in French Indo-China, for example, contributed between HK$30,000 and HK$50,000, while the Chinese population of the Dutch East Indies gave HK$32,550. San Francisco contributed only HK$10,000, even less than the contribution of the Chinese in Montreal (HK$11,000). See Timothy J. Stanley, "Chinamen Wherever We Go: Chinese Nationalism and Guangdong Merchants in British Columbia, 1871-1911," Canadian Historical Review 77, no. 4 (December 1996), 500; C. Martin Wilbur, Sun Yat-sen: Frustrated Patriot (New York: Columbia University Press, 1976), 42; Hsueh, Huang Hsing and the Chinese Revolution, 86; Lai, "Contribution of the Zhigongtang in Canada," 97-103.

(8.) These instructions were issued by the Chinese Foreign Ministry on 16 January 1914 (NAC, RG 25, External Affairs: Vol. 1142, File 308: Harcourt to the Governor General of Canada, 11 March 1914).

(9.) Throughout the Great War, China was represented by two consular officials in Canada. Yang Shuwen, who had previously served as Chinese consul general in Manila, was appointed to serve as consul general in Ottawa on 6 December 1913 (NAC, RG 25, External Affairs: Vol. 1133, File 1913-477: Memo to Sir Joseph Pope, 6 December 1913). Lin Shiyuan, who had previously served as the secretary in the Vancouver consulate, was promoted to consul on 1 October 1912 (NAC, RG 25, External Affairs: Vol. 1127, File 1144: Memo from the Chinese Legation, 1 October 1912). The Vancouver consul was responsible for the interests of Chinese residents in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and the Yukon, while the consul-general was responsible for the rest of Canada (NAC, RG 25, External Affairs: Vol. 1133, File 1913-477: letter from the Chinese Legation to Sir Edward Grey, 15 April 1913).

(10.) University of British Columbia Special Collections (hereafter UBCSC), China Consul Fonds (1915): Lin Shiyuan to Harry Bishop, 2 March 1915. Lin's appeal to Bolduc included copies of letters from Joe Gar Chow of the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association and Lee Dan of the Chinese Chamber of Commerce, both of whom strongly condemned the agenda of the New Republic (NAC, RG 6, Chief Press Censor for Canada: Vol. 86, File 246-1/246-2: Lin to A. Bolduc, Deputy Postmaster General of Canada, 24 June 1915; Joe Gar Chow to Lin, 27 February 1915; Lee Dan to Lin, 1 March 1915).

(11.) UBCSC, China Consul Fonds (1915): Lin to the Mayor of Vancouver, 29 April 1915; China Consul Fonds (1914): Lin to Kelowna Chief of Police R.W. Thomas, 12 November 1914. Lin was responding to a report that a Chinese resident of Kelowna named Kwong Lee Yuen was caught attempting to smuggle 200 Winchester rifles, an automatic Browning pistol, and 700 rounds of ammunition into Hong Kong (Kelowna Courier, 10 December 1914).

(12.) NAC, RG 7, G 21, Governor General's Office: Vol. 436, File 14071, Part 14, Item 1995: Bonar Law to the Governor General of Canada, 12 August 1915; RG 6, E, Chief Press Censor for Canada: Vol. 526, File 168-1: Deputy Chief Press Censor C.F. Hamilton to Chambers, 16 August 1915.

(13.) NAC, RG 6, E, Chief Press Censor for Canada: Vol. 526, File 168-2: Secretary of State to Chambers, 25 October 1918.

(14.) NAC, RG 6, E, Chief Press Censor for Canada: Vol. 526, File 168A-1: Chambers to Dominion Chief of Police Percy Sherwood, 9 April 1916.

(15.) NAC, RG 6, E, Chief Press Censor for Canada: Vol. 526, File 168A-1: Chambers to Perry, Manager of the Great North Western Telegraphic Company, 19 January 1916.

(16.) NAC, RG 6, E, Chief Press Censor for Canada: Vol. 612, File 280: Robert Nathan to Chambers, 5 May 1916. The exact date of Nathan's arrival is unclear, but Chambers distributed letters of welcome identifying Nathan as an agent of the Chief Press Censor's Office on 15 April 1916.

(17.) NAC, RG 6, E, Chief Press Censor for Canada: Vol. 526, File 168A-1: Reid to Sherwood, 17 April 1916; Vol. 86, File 246-1/246-2: Reid to Chambers, 2 November 1916.

(18.) NAC, RG 6, E, Chief Press Censor for Canada: Vol. 526, File 168A-1: Reid to Sherwood, 17 April 1916; BCARS, GR 419, Vol. 220, File 1919/15: Trial Records of Chen Shu-yen, p. 18.

(19.) NAC, RG 6, E, Chief Press Censor for Canada: Vol. 526, File 168A-1: Chambers to Perry, 13 April 1916; Chambers to Reid, 13 April 1916. The visit must have occurred sometime between 10-13 April as Chambers commented to Reid that "since I last wrote you on the subject, I have had a visit from a high official from the Home Country, and from what he says I fancy that great importance attaches to these messages." The memo does not mention Nathan by name: as with their correspondence regarding the surveillance of Indian nationalists, Reid and Chambers referred to him as "our mutual friend," with Chambers noting that he did "not like to mention his name." Hugh Johnston identified this "mutual friend" as Robert Nathan. See Johnston, "The Surveillance of Indian Nationalists in North America," 22.

(20.) NAC, RG 6, E, Chief Press Censor for Canada: Vol. 526, File 168A-1: Reid to Sherwood, 17 April 1916; File 168A-3: Reid to Chambers, 19 October 1917; Vol. 86, File 246-1/246-2: Reid to Chambers, 8 May 1916; Reid to Sherwood, 6 February 1916.

(21.) NAC, RG 6, E, Chief Press Censor for Canada: Vol. 86, File 246-1/246-2: H.W. Herschner to Chambers, 14 December 1916, 27 December 1916, 8 January 1917; Chambers to Herschner, 2 January 1917.

(22.) NAC, RG 6, E, Chief Press Censor for Canada: Vol. 86, File 246-1/246-2: Chambers to R.M. Coulter, 27 October 1918; Chambers to Yang Shuwen, 25 October 1918; Chambers to A.A. McLean, Comptroller, R.N.W.M. Police, 31 March 1919.

(23.) NAC, RG 6, E, Chief Press Censor for Canada: Vol. 86, File 246-1/246-2: Chambers to Reid, 16 February 1916; Chambers to Reid, 4 September 1916; Chambers to RH Helmer, Militia HQ in Ottawa, 10 July 1916; Memo from Chambers, 17 February 1917.

(24.) NAC, RG 6, E, Chief Press Censor for Canada: Vol. 86, File 246-1/246-2: Chambers to Reid, 24 October 1918; Chambers to Reid, 8 April 1917.

(25.) NAC, RG 6, E, Chief Press Censor for Canada: Vol. 86, File 246-1/246-2: Chambers to the Editor of the Chinese Times, 10 July 1916; Chambers to McLean, 31 March 1919; Vol. 526, File 168-1: Chambers to Reid, 3 February 1916.

(26.) NAC, RG 6, E, Chief Press Censor for Canada: Vol. 86, File 246-1/246-2: Lew to Hastings, enclosed in a letter from Thornton Fell to Chambers, 24 February 1917; Herschner to Tweedale, 31 October 1916.

(27.) NAC, RG 6, E, Chief Press Censor for Canada: Vol. 86, File 246-1/246-2: Herschner to Tweedale, 31 October 1916; Herschner to Chambers, 8 January 1917.

(28.) NAC, RG 6, E, Chief Press Censor for Canada: Vol. 86, File 246-1/246-2: Tweedale to Chambers, 3 November 1916.

(29.) Chambers forwarded his request directly to Solicitor General Arthur Meighen on 11 November; the memo from the Office of the Solicitor General came back two days later, but the copy in the archival record was unsigned. As such, it is not clear whether or not this was the opinion of Meighen or someone else in the office (NAC, RG 6, E, Chief Press Censor for Canada: Vol. 86, File 246-1/246-2: Chambers to Arthur Meighen, 11 November 1916; Memo from the Office of the Solicitor General, 13 November 1916).

(30.) NAC, RG 6, E, Chief Press Censor for Canada: Vol. 86, File 246-1/246-2: Fell to Chambers, 24 February 1917. Fell represented the defendants in the Victoria CCBA riot trials, during which time the translations of the editorials had been discredited. He had also represented Chinese seeking damages arising from the anti-Chinese violence in the 1887 Vancouver Riot. See Con et al., From China to Canada, 63.

(31.) NAC, RG 6, E, Chief Press Censor for Canada: Vol. 620, File 331-1: "Chinese Coolies Sent to France." I have calculated the total number of laborers shipped across Canada to be 74,671, based on the ship manifests available in the file.

(32.) NAC, RG 6, E, Chief Press Censor for Canada: Vol. 620, File 331-1: Confidential Circular to Canadian Editors (CPC 48), issued on 14 March 1917; RG 24, Department of Defence: Vol. 2847, File 3281: Final Report of the Chief Press Censor, p. 59.

(33.) NAC RG 6, E, Chief Press Censor for Canada: Vol. 620, File 331-1: Reid to Chambers, 18 January 1918; Arthur Sladen to Sir Willoughby Gwatkin, Chief of the General Staff, 11 January 1918; Chambers to Major G.C. Carvell, Military Headquarters, Montreal, 24 January 1918; War Office to Chambers, 8 March 1918.

(34.) NAC, RG 6, E, Chief Press Censor for Canada: Vol. 620, File 331-1: Chambers to Acton Burrows, Editor in Chief of Canadian Railway and Marine World Magazine, 21 April 1917; Reid to Chambers, 7 April 1917; Vol. 527, File 168A-3: Reid to Chambers, 23 April 1917; Jeffrey Keshen, Propaganda and Censorship During Canada's Great War (Edmonton: University of Alberta Press, 1996), 242n20.

(35.) British Columbian, 14 June 1917; NAC, RG 6, E, Chief Press Censor for Canada: Vol. 86, File 246-1/246-2: Report of Special Operator #208 to Reid, 13 July 1917.

(36.) NAC, RG 6, E, Chief Press Censor for Canada: Vol. 620, File 331-1: correspondence seized and forwarded to Chambers on 11 April 1917: letters from Ho Wing Yee to On Wo Het; Chow Jung Shing to Way On Co.; Lee Sit Kuan to On Yick; Mon Lee to Tak Wing Sang; Sit Sing Bok to Hong Fook Tung; Sing On Co. to Shanghai Ice and Coldstorage Co.

(37.) NAC, RG 6, E, Chief Press Censor for Canada: Vol. 620, File 331-1: Chambers to Reid, 6 May 1917; Chambers to Chief of the General Staff Willoughby Gwatkin, 6 May 1917; Chambers to Acton Burrows, Editor in Chief, Canadian Railway and Marine World, 21 April 1917; Chambers to Reid, Sherwood, and Gwatkin, 19 April 1917; Chambers to Lieut. Co. A.W. Richardson, Corps of Guides, Kingston, 8 August 1917.

(38.) NAC, RG 6, E, Chief Press Censor for Canada: Vol. 527, File 168A-3: Reid to Chambers, 23 October 1917. The scope of the surveillance had been extended for several months in early 1917 when the Chief Press Censor made arrangements to "have the telegraphic correspondence of Chinese in Canada more closely watched." This order yielded little of interest, and Robert Nathan cancelled the surveillance of "domestic Chinese telegrams" in May, but the surveillance recommenced in October when Reid and Sherwood judged that it would be prudent to re-censor "the majority of the Chinese telegraphic messages." (NAC, RG 6, E, Chief Press Censor for Canada: Vol. 526, File 168-2: Chambers to the managers of the telegraphic companies in Canada, 28 February 1917; File 168A-3, Reid to Chambers, 28 May 1917; Reid to Chambers, 23 October 1917).

(39.) Keshen, Propaganda and Censorship During Canada's Great War, 103. Keshen's discussion of the surveillance of the Chinese makes no specific mention of the impact of the labor shipments on the surveillance operations; he does note, however, that from 1917 onward "thousands of telegrams involving any member of this racial group" were intercepted.

(40.) BP #136343-44: Yang Shuwen to Borden, 26 August 1918; RG 6, E, Chief Press Censor for Canada: Vol. 86, File 246-1/246-2: Sherwood to Chambers, 27 September 1918; Con et al., From China to Canada, 106.

(41.) Canada Gazette, 5 October 1918, as quoted in Swyripa and Thompson, eds., Loyalties in Conflict, 194. PC 2381 banned any publication printed in the following languages: German, "Austrian," Hungarian, Bulgarian, Turkish, Romanian, Russian, Ukrainian, Finnish, Esthonian [sic], Syrian, Croatian, Ruthenian, and Livonian. The order in council made no mention of Chinese language publications and hence had no impact on the New Republic. For the full text of PC 2381, see Swyripa and Thompson, eds., Loyalties in Conflict, 190-92.

(42.) NAC, RG 6, E, Chief Press Censor for Canada: Vol. 86, File 246-1/246-2: Letter from Way Yet-sun to Zhen Shuyuan, 2 December 1918, enclosed in a letter from Reid to Chambers, 10 February 1919.

(43.) NAC, RG 6, E, Chief Press Censor for Canada: Vol. 86, File 246-1/246-2: Report of Special Operator #220, enclosed in a letter from Reid to Chambers, 2 October 1918.

(44.) BCARS, GR 1327, File 166/1918: Coroner's Inquest into the Death of Tang Hualong, 4 September 1918: Testimony of Lee Mong Kow, p. 32.

(45.) NAC, RG 6, E, Chief Press Censor for Canada: Vol. 86, File 246-1/246-2: Report of Special Operator #220, enclosed in letters from Reid to Chambers, 2 and 3 October 1918.

(46.) Con et al., From China to Canada, 110; Wickberg, "Chinese and Canadian Influences on Chinese Politics in Vancouver, 1900-1945," B.C. Studies 45 (1980), 48-49. Despite the suppression of the organization in 1918, the CNL re-emerged in the interwar years as a significant force in Chinese Canadian politics. The consolidation of power in China by Chiang Kai-shek in 1928 removed the threat posed by "hostile consulates," and the organization's membership peaked in the 1930s and 1940s at between seven and ten thousand. See Con et al., From China to Canada, 161-62.


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Allan Rowe is a Ph.D. candidate in the Department of History and Classics at the University of Alberta. His current research focuses on the immigration and settlement of the Irish in Western Canada in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.
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Author:Rowe, Allan
Publication:Canadian Ethnic Studies Journal
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Mar 22, 2004
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