|Country of Origin
|Ha Wang Chun, Wang Sui Heung, Toishan, China
|Date of Birth
|Year of Arrival in Australia
|Peter Liu OAM
The remarkable stories of Lew Nam and his son Dr Eddie Liu OAM, OBE, Hon.D. Qld Univ. – Part 2.
In August 1940, following the fall of France, the situation in the Far East was reviewed and it was acknowledged yet again that Hong Kong was indefensible in the event of war with Japan. In early 1941, Winston Churchill briefed Chief-of-Staff, General Sir Hastings Ismay: ‘There is not the slightest chance of holding Hong Kong or relieving it. It is most unwise to increase the loss we shall suffer there. Instead of augmenting the garrison it ought to be reduced to a symbolic scale. Japan will think long before declaring war on the British Empire, and whether there are two or six battalions at Hong Kong will make no difference to her choice.’
A racially restrictive immigration policy in Australia flatly rejected Chinese workers bringing their wives to Australia. Therefore Lew Nam’s wife, Chung Siu Hing, a native of Dongguan, remained isolated in Kowloon. In fact, when gold was discovered in Western Australia in the 1880s and 1890s, Chinese were prohibited from working the diggings. By the time the Immigration Restriction Act 1901 was passed by the first Australian Federal Parliament and effectively banned further migration, the number of Chinese in Australia was in steady decline. Furthermore, by the 1890s, the colonial parliaments had placed restrictions on the migration of ‘coloureds’ in general and Chinese in particular. A small number of settlers arrived from China each year during the decades when Australia’s restrictive migration policy was gradually relaxed before its formal abolition in the 1970s.
Just after 8 am on December 8th 1941, five hours after the Japanese commenced their devastating attack on Pearl Harbor, Kai Tak Airfield was attacked by twelve Japanese heavy bombers accompanied by thirty-six Mitsubishi A6M Zero fighter aircraft operated by the Imperial Japanese Navy Air Service. Within a few minutes, the obsolete RAF Vickers Vildebeest and Walrus aircraft stationed at Kai Tak were incinerated in the devastating firepower of the strike force. Contemporaneously, Japanese forward units commenced placing temporary bridges across the Sham Chun River (Shenzhen He), which marked the border between Guangdong Province and the New Territories. Thus the Japanese attack on Hong Kong commenced.
Lew Nam owned a four-storey Commercial complex in Tak Ku Ling Road in close proximity to the airfield. His wife, Chung Siu Hing, died in 1942 as a result of the indiscriminate Japanese bombing. The entire territory of Hong Kong held out for 17 days, a mere fifth of the time it was expected to endure, surrendering to the Japanese at the Peninsula Hotel on Christmas Day 1941. 1942 was the centenary year of its cession to Great Britain.
Richard had been conscripted into the Chinese Army at age 16 fighting in appalling conditions, close to starvation. He had to walk back to Hong Kong at the end of the war barefooted from Guangzhou.
Eddie brought his younger brother, Richard, to Australia but the family had lost all of its material belongings.
Lew Nam died on March 18th 1946 but his savings were never retrieved from the quasi-Chinese bank typically used by Chinese living in Melbourne at that time. In short, Eddie and Richard had to start their life in Australia from ground zero in terms of financial resources, with a seriously truncated education, and without the love, guidance and protection of parents. They were alone and penniless in a foreign country. The only possession they had was perseverance.
Lew Nam’s ancestral roots
and dragons crossing the river
Toishan, is a coastal county-level city in Guangdong Province, China. The city is located in the Pearl River Delta, southwest of Jiangmen to which it administratively belongs and 140 kilometres west of Hong Kong. It is one of four county-level cities in the Pearl River Delta area known as Sze Yup. Toishan is generally referred to as the “Home of Overseas Chinese.”
Chinese refer to themselves as descendants of ‘Yan-Huang zisun’ dating back to two tribal rulers, Emperors Huangdi and Yandi, who lived roughly 4,000 years ago along the Yellow River, the crucible for the fermentation of Chinese civilisation. During this historic period in China, writing with Chinese characters was invented and during the Warring States period (480-222BC) the institution of marriage and focus on family unity was established, along with teaching people many useful and practical arts of survival in agriculture, traditional herbal medicine, and self-cultivation as a good human being.
In the late 1800s when Lew Nam made his courageous and visionary voyage to Australia, he brought with him these values and skill-sets.
See part 3.