100 years ago: Chinese-Americans call for boycott of US-made goods in China


The US-based Chinese Chamber of Commerce (CCC) called for a boycott of American goods throughout China on May 29, 1910. The CCC’s League of Justice issued the appeal to protest the creation of a detention center for Chinese immigrants on Angel Island in San Francisco Bay. Telegrams were sent by the organization to business associations across China requesting that they refuse to purchase US-made goods in an effort to pressure Washington to abandon its discriminatory practices.

The detention center at Angel Island was built to enforce the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882. After the end of the California Gold Rush and the economic downturn that followed, the US government sought to strictly limit the number of laborers from China entering the country and whip up anti-Chinese sentiment. The law also prevented permanent residents from China already living in the US from receiving American citizenship.

Thousands of immigrants from China were held captive on Angel Island in prison-like conditions for weeks, months, and in some cases, years. Housed in cramped, communal quarters, separated from family members, and subject to interrogation, Immigration Station became synonymous with desperation and despair. Detainees scrawled poetry about their suffering on walls of the Angel Island barracks.

First opened in 1910, Immigration Station operated until 1940, when it was destroyed in a fire. The Chinese Exclusion Act was not repealed until 1943, after which a quota system was put in its place.

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