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Parliament passed the Chinese Immigrants Act on 5 July 1881 which created a ‘poll tax’ of £10 (equivalent to nearly $1700 in 2017 terms) to be imposed on Chinese migrants and restricted the number allowed to land from each ship arriving in New Zealand: Only one Chinese passenger was allowed for every 10 tons of cargo.[1][2]

In 1896 this was changed to one passenger for every 200 tons, and the tax was increased to £100 (nearly $19,000 in 2017 terms).[1][2]

These measures were supported by organisations opposed to Chinese immigration during the late 19th and early 20th centuries, including the Anti-Chinese Association, the Anti-Chinese League, the Anti-Asiatic League and the White New Zealand League.[1]

On 15 December 1944, The Finance Act (No. 3) abolished the poll tax introduced in 1881, when it was officially repealed[3] (although the Poll Tax had been waived since 1933)[3]. The Minister of Finance Walter Nash described the Poll Tax as a ‘blot on our legislation’.[3]

The poll tax was waived by the Minister of Customs in 1934, but it was not repealed until 1944. By then other countries had abandoned it.[3]

In 2002 the New Zealand government officially apologised to the Chinese community for the suffering caused by the poll tax.[3]

Other ways in which Chinese were discriminated against included:

  • From 1907 all arrivals were required to sit an English reading test.[2][3]
  • From 1908 Chinese who wished to leave the country temporarily needed re-entry permits, which were thumb-printed.[2][3]
  • The ability of Chinese to become British citizens in New Zealand through naturalisation was prevented between 1908 and 1951[2]
  • From 1926 permanent residency was denied to Chinese.[2][3]
  • Until 1936 Chinese were denied the old-age pension.[2][3]

In 2002 the New Zealand government officially apologised to the Chinese community for the injustice of the tax.[3]

  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 'Poll tax imposed on Chinese ', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/poll-tax-imposed-on-chinese, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 25-Jul-2017
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 2.6 Wendy Harnett. (2013). Chinese New Zealanders: An Inventory of Records Held by Archives New Zealand. Chinese Southern Diaspora Studies, Six. Retrieved from http://chl-old.anu.edu.au/publications/csds/csds2013/csds2013_20.pdf
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7 3.8 3.9 'Poll tax on Chinese immigrants abolished', URL: https://nzhistory.govt.nz/poll-tax-on-chinese-immigrants-abolished, (Ministry for Culture and Heritage), updated 24-Nov-2016

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