What were the long-term and short-term causes of anti-Chinese riots on the gold fields in Australia in 1850's and 1860's? What do these incidents reveal about the gold fields' population and the colonial governments?
The Chinese began to arrive in the gold fields in large numbers during the years 1955-56 and by 1957 "the Europeans both in the towns and on the gold fields had become afraid of the Chinese." What followed was a number of anti-Chinese riots, aimed at eradicating these migrants from the gold fields. There were various long-term and short-term causes of these violent acts against the Chinese centered about cultural differences, a fear that cheap Chinese labourers were taking European jobs and the European feeling of "racial superiority." The colonial government's reaction to these riots reveals much about the nature of population at the time, as well as the composition of the government themselves in the 1850's and 1860's.
A long-term cause of the fear of the Chinese that lead to the violence towards them on the gold fields at the time was the Europeans dislike of foreigners and the nature of the colony itself. It has been argued that it was the very "Australian character" which contained a "high degree of xenophobia" that led to the fear of the Chinese. Cannon goes further to suggest that this dislike of foreigners is,
"always latent among pale-skinned people who begin by fearing the coloured races on economic grounds and end by persecuting them for the different pigmentation of their skins."
Cannon also suggests that this "national hatred... became enshrined in racialist legislation," enacted by the colonial government at the time to further segregate the Chinese diggers from their European peers. Bills were passed to "control the flood of Chinese settling in the colony" and the introduction of...