In rare apology, House regrets exclusionary laws targeting Chinese
Rep. Judy Chu, D-California, sponsored a resolution that apologized for the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act.
June 19th, 2012
12:47 PM ET

In rare apology, House regrets exclusionary laws targeting Chinese

By Moni Basu, CNN

(CNN) - The United States has apologized to African-Americans, Japanese, Native Americans and Hawaiians for wrongs in the name of government. Now it has made that rare apology to Chinese-Americans for discriminatory laws adopted 130 years ago.

The House of Representatives passed a resolution Monday expressing regret for the passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act, which imposed severe restrictions on Chinese immigration and naturalization and denied Chinese-Americans basic freedoms because of their race.

The apology reverberated across the nation and the Pacific.

"We have made history!!!!" read a news flash on the website of the Chinese American Citizens Alliance. And the story was carried by Xinhua, China's state-run news agency.

The House regret came on a resolution sponsored by Rep. Judy Chu, D-California, who is the first Chinese-American woman elected to Congress.

For Chu, the apology was deeply personal.

"It is for my grandfather and for all Chinese-Americans that we must pass this resolution, for those who were told for six decades by the U.S. government that the land of the free wasn't open to them," Chu said on the House floor.

"We must finally and formally acknowledge these ugly laws that were incompatible with America's founding principles," she said.

She told her fellow lawmakers how her grandfather did not have the legal right to become a citizen, how he was forced to register and carry a certificate of residence at all times for almost 40 years, or else face deportation. He could be saved only if a white person vouched for him.

Chu said the Senate "did its part to right history" by passing its own resolution last October. She implored the House to do the same.

The Chinese came to America, as do all immigrants, searching for a better life.

"Their blood, sweat and tears built the first transcontinental railroad, connecting the people of our nation," Chu said. "They opened our mines, constructed the levees and became the backbone of farm production."

But as the economy soured in the 1870s, Chu said, the Chinese were made scapegoats.

"They were called racial slurs, were spat upon in the streets and even brutally murdered," she said.

They were known as the "Mongolian horde," and on April 17, 1882, the House passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, signed by President Chester Arthur.

Over the years, the act became more discriminatory, scarring many generations of Chinese-Americans. It was repealed in 1943 after China became an ally in World War II.

Congress has issued apologies to groups of people before, including to African-Americans for slavery, to Japanese for internment camps, to Native Americans for violence, neglect and mistreatment, and to Hawaiians for the overthrow of their monarchy.

"Today is historic," Chu said.

"This is a very significant day in the Chinese-American community. It is an expression that discrimination has no place in our society and that the promise of equality is available to all."

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Filed under: Asian in America • Discrimination • History • How we look • Immigration • Politics • Race
soundoff (71 Responses)
  1. John D.

    Only the southern half of the nation had slavery. The entire US did not have to apologize for it. If anyone, the people who should be apologizing are the blacks in Africa who sold blacks into slavery. I am white and I owe no one a apology for anything. It's like the son of a mass murderer having to apologize for his father's actions. The only people who should be apologizing are the people who committed the acts.

    December 19, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • NO apology to China

      Are you crazy? We need Chinese exclusion acts now more than ever. they come here, steal our technology, rob us blind with unfair trade rules, and then bash us while their students come here to learn what they can't learn back home. We need a new, real very aggressive Chinese exclusion act. We need to kick these ungrateful, brainwashed people back to their home country where they can be happy living in poverty, party elitism, and arbitrary laws.

      We owe the Chinese nothing, the blacks and natives we screwed over. The Chinese are just a very populous country who started flooding us with immigrants because they couldn't find work in China and that's why we excluded them. What they are doing now is far worse.

      December 25, 2012 at 10:15 pm | Report abuse |
    • NO apology to China

      This law was sponsored by a Chinese person. I, as a white owe the Chinese exactly nothing. In fact, they owe my people for stealing our technology. Again, this is a Chinese apologizing to Chinese. No white people believe this. Keep jacking off your homeland, maybe they will stop being tyrants. Not.

      December 25, 2012 at 10:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • hardtobeme

      Yes then, when will america apologize on behalf of all its citizens for the discrimination and hatred they spew about Arabs/Muslims. You say that only those that commit the act should apologize. I bet you refuse to apologize to Muslims/Arabs though huh? Hypocryte.

      December 28, 2012 at 1:34 am | Report abuse |
  2. Rumi

    If the problem is beorkn auto-responders then try to solve that problem. I was the Director of Support for a good size startup. Our emails always had reply-tos that went into our support system. And I my email account was set up as the catch all . There is room for tools to manage this situation but it's really not that big of a deal.The thing that is exasperating is that these companies otherwise spend millions of dollars trying to talk to customers and prospective customers. And yet refuse to accept email from them.

    October 15, 2012 at 2:28 am | Report abuse |
  3. Scrammble

    Thank you Judy for what you have done. I am sure like all congressman and woman, you are elected by American democracy, won your seat as an American (First!), a woman (second!) and an Asian American (third!). Your effort in making congress to issue an apology for the mistakes the Chinese Exclusion Act made is commendable as an act of patriotism, social justice and defender of human rights, which majority of American people all believe in. This apology is a domestic statement to all Americans including the present and past Chinese Americans, not to any foreign regime or power. It is done with American spirit, land of the brave, to admit courageously what mistakes our laws have made. We should apologize for the past, for today's and for the future laws if any is found to be a mistake hurting or discriminating any of our citizens. United States is a democratic country that can and will make an apology for her mistakes not like some monarchy countries unwilling to make such an apology causing its educated people carrying a guilt from generation to generations.
    While in our country, protected by freedom of speech, tolerates but not necessarily accepts any individual comment by the majority, we should be aware of CNN just like Fox News, although popular does not represent all the people of America. I sincerely hope the silent majority will appreciate what Congress woman Judy has done.

    July 7, 2012 at 11:08 am | Report abuse |
  4. John Starkweather

    Just reading it and not knowing the details, doesn't it sound like we'll be doing the same thing in another 130 yrs to Mexican peoples? Apologizing for imposing severe restrictions on Mexican immigration and naturalization and denied Mexican-Americans basic freedoms because of their race.? I guess "it's different this time..." Because Why?

    June 24, 2012 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
    • MRCAB

      Sure, if you can spin it that way.

      December 20, 2012 at 2:31 am | Report abuse |
  5. Greensapm

    Today, Republicans said they were ok with Exclusionary Act for the Presidency though.

    June 23, 2012 at 8:39 pm | Report abuse |
  6. Dathras

    I find it funny how so many think we need to make issues from centuries ago relevant today.
    We need to look at what the culture and society was like in the times the law was enacted and what the feelings were of the people in tose times. There are laws today that all of you may think are the greatest thing in the world, but may be looked at in 200 years as not being politicaly correct.
    Alwasy easy to judge the past, when you were not their walking in their shoes.

    June 22, 2012 at 12:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gethetruth

      Cannot agree with you. You have no capacity to understand discrimination. You are in denial.

      June 22, 2012 at 4:54 pm | Report abuse |
    • Barbara Tuan Yu Dove

      Pleeeze!!! Wake up and smell the chop suey. You are in denial of the white man's discrimination. The Yellow Peril is what they called us!!! Fear amongst the natives – oops, they weren't the natives either were they......

      June 23, 2012 at 9:22 am | Report abuse |
  7. David Crosby

    If the House of Representatives was ever truly sorry for anything ..Then maybe they can all jump of the Potomac River bridge en mass and we can start over..Hmmm..Just a thought...

    June 22, 2012 at 1:08 am | Report abuse |
  8. Indian Mommy

    What about the The Immigration Act of 1924, or Johnson–Reed Act, including the National Origins Act, and Asian Exclusion Act?? If you're going to apologize, why not to everyone who was discriminated against? Gimme a stupid break.

    June 21, 2012 at 7:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gethetruth

      Yes, take your stupid break. It is high time the Americans, the Spanish, the Portuguese, the French and the British and all the barbarian people of Europe and the all the other war mongers of the East to apology for their cruelty to other nationals and races. The human race is a disgrace and those who consider themselves civilized should apologize to others even if wrong the was done by their ancestors. I do not know if the Germans of today have apologized for the atrocities of the Nazi who were from their land. Its never too late.

      June 22, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Kenneth Sanders

    President Chester Arthur was a Republican. Yeah, they usually create hate laws.

    June 21, 2012 at 3:02 am | Report abuse |
    • SC

      and all those southern Democrats left the party because of the Civil Rights act and became Republicans. There kind now make up the Tea Party and Christian Right.

      June 21, 2012 at 2:26 pm | Report abuse |
    • Gethetruth

      Thanks for that information. Not surprising.

      June 22, 2012 at 5:05 pm | Report abuse |
  10. rexdogcanadien

    There is but one race – the HUMAN RACE. We are all cut from the same tapestry of humanity. This is a biological fact. Skin hue is irrelevant to our dreams and aspirations. Why are some Americans so fixated on using social concepts of race in their classification of people?

    June 20, 2012 at 6:13 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Erks

    "We must finally and formally acknowledge these ugly laws that were incompatible with America's founding principles," she said.
    I love the way people look at the founding principles in whatever rose tinted, idealized way that they want. At first only a small minority of white males who owned property could vote.

    June 20, 2012 at 6:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • Chic

      Come on! The Pilgrim Fathers left England, on the Mayflower, to "escape harsh religious laws" As soon as they landed, they branded thieves and adulterers; tortured anyone who disobeyed their Puritan tyranny and exiled dissenters into the wilds to die slowly of starvation! And theyforced people to attend hours and hours of religious rants in "church"on pain of punishment.

      THAT's what America was founded on. America was founded os the notion of supremacy. Nothing's really changed, has it?

      June 21, 2012 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
  12. df

    It's not an "apology". It's a statement of "regret". It has a different legal meaning than an "apology".

    Apology is where you are sorry and admit responsibility.

    "Regret" is just where you are sorry, but don't admit any responsibility.

    For example, I feel "regret" that bad things happened to other people in general, which I had nothing to do with.

    June 20, 2012 at 4:59 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Tony

    Is it ok for me to beat up a german-american because the german has killed 6 million jews?

    So why you would blame these 2nd of 3rd generation Chinese Americans for what the Communist China did?

    June 20, 2012 at 9:36 am | Report abuse |
  14. Joe smith

    Will the people on this planet please remember that American born persons whose relatives were from China may not be the same as the new immigrants that are coming from a country that has indoctrinated them into communist ideas that expressly state all is for the Party to decide how much freedom each person shall have-China today IS COMMUNIST- we have a generation coming up that does not understand what that means and the Red Chinese know this and are banking on keeping it that way!

    June 20, 2012 at 9:00 am | Report abuse |

      Joe, please educate yourself.

      The Chinese exclusion act started in 1882. China communist party was established in 1921 and became in charge in 1950. The exclusion act started way before the communist party ever existed. In another word, the exclusion act had nothing to do with communist party, it was purely racism and was not right. Does it make any sense to you?

      June 20, 2012 at 6:45 pm | Report abuse |
  15. bsteh

    The Australians beat the Americans by apologising to their abrogines 3 years calling for reconciliation. In any case the English has a saying, 'a leopard does not change its spots'. If American Chinese feel better after this long delayed 'contrition' so be it.

    It does not change a thing, American policy towards China is still one of containment. Merriam Webster Dictionary defines containment as a policy of checking the expansion or influence of a hostile power. Hence America regards China as a hostile power whose expansion and influence are to be curbed.

    No less a luminary as Kissinger has expressed the existence of such a policy. President Obama had expressed similar sentiments.

    US imperial ambitions expanded outside of the Americas for the first time when the Americans joined in the slicing up of imperial China during the Opium Wars. It contributed to the Chinese civil war by siding with Chiang Kai Shek who lost to the peasant army led by Mao.

    Thereafter China has always been regarded as evil, oppressive, stale and ruled by tyrants. Even until today, China is regularly chastised for its 'poor' human rights records while America still strut around as the champion of democracy and the beacon of freedom fully aware of its reputation as the most hated nation in the world today.

    June 20, 2012 at 4:00 am | Report abuse |
    • M Houston

      Spoken like genuinely loyal party (CCP) member and apologist for Mao Tse Tung's
      nasty reign over China. In other words "thus spake Hsinhua Su She"...

      June 22, 2012 at 12:20 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      Both countries have pretty poor record regarding human rights. The difference is, China is getting better and USA is getting worse. US "freedom" is only on paper and in propaganda. In reality the oppressiveness of USA is similar to any other country. USA is really not so special, and is slipping down the list.

      June 24, 2012 at 7:45 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Brett

    When did Americans become such weasels that they can only justify an action based on the actions of others? China wouldn't pass this act, so why did we? Other countries torture, so why don't we? It's cowardly child-like logic.

    Having a true moral authority requires you to take the initiative in tough questions and not decide what to do based on the actions of others, but because the action itself is the right thing to do. That requires true character and strength, two things are difficult to find with Americans more afraid of dirt-poor opium farmers in Afghanistan than doing the right thing in their own home.

    June 20, 2012 at 2:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Chhaya

      There is a perfectly good rosaen for sending an automatic confirmation mail from a no-reply mailbox, yet giving a contact email address in the message body: Broken email autoresponders and mistyped email addresses. Yes, you still want your customers to reach you via their preferred communication channel. No, you don't want to spend your days wading through tons of notifications from broken auto-responders, transfer reports and mistyped email addresses.

      October 15, 2012 at 2:41 am | Report abuse |

    They were known as the "Mongolian horde," and on April 17, 1882, the House passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, signed by President Chester Arthur. THERE WAS A PRESIDENT CHESTER ARTHUR????????? ET HE WAS EXCITING LIKE ROMNEY

    June 20, 2012 at 2:12 am | Report abuse |
  18. Hester Crumb

    Acknowledging the past allows us to move on into the future.

    June 20, 2012 at 1:02 am | Report abuse |
    • rory

      What is the point to apologise when it's not sincere. Also when you read all the comments here and make you wonder is it better off to educate people first in general is more important.

      June 20, 2012 at 1:46 am | Report abuse |
  19. Daniela

    Will the asian apologize for discriminate the rest of the world, because they are very very racist, all of them, give me a break! That is why US is now like this having a hard time, because want to be " good " apologizes for what!

    June 20, 2012 at 12:57 am | Report abuse |
    • Huh?

      Out of curiosity, what ethnic background are you? And what did Asians do to you that has you in a twist?

      June 20, 2012 at 1:32 am | Report abuse |
  20. Stella

    I'm sorry it happened but come on, it was 130 years ago. I'll be China has quite a bit to apologize for during that time as does every other country in the world. For crying out loud, move on and stop all the whining and maudlin crap.

    June 20, 2012 at 12:51 am | Report abuse |
    • Mike

      but it's totally okay for african americans to pull the racist/oppression card even though slavery happened many years ago huh?

      June 20, 2012 at 2:40 am | Report abuse |
  21. Kyle H. Davis

    Let's see how long it takes China to rewrite its exclusionary laws and apologize. (Don't hold your breath.)

    If you can give me the names of 5 non-Asian immigrants that have become Chinese citizens in the past 40+ years... I'll give you my first born son and my left testicle.

    June 20, 2012 at 12:06 am | Report abuse |
    • Darren

      All the people saying we shouldn't apologize because China hasn't- That's NOT the point. That's childish reasoning, also. The plain and simple fact is that we didn't live up to our ideals, an entire set of people (PEOPLE, mind you, not the Chinese government) have been apologized to, and rightfully so. It may do little in any practical sense, in that it can't reverse what already happened, but it still CAN put it on record that our current society and government recognized it as wrong, hopefully with the intent that we won't repeat it again. We should be proud of the fact that our country is set to a higher standard- we should maintain that and excel beyond that.

      June 20, 2012 at 5:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Felix

      Does Hong Kong counts? Otherwise it would be checkmate.

      June 20, 2012 at 9:13 am | Report abuse |
    • Anna LAne


      June 20, 2012 at 2:30 pm | Report abuse |

      II am pretty sure there are more than 5 non-Asian immigrants that have become Chinese citizens in the past 40+ years...there is a book written by a white guy who grew up in China in 1960s, with Citizenship of course. He described the life of a group of white kids, mainly from those previously communist countries, they were even involved in the cultural revolution. You can keep your first born son and your left testicle, treat your son well, don't bet with him.

      June 20, 2012 at 7:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • antonio

      Kyle, Be careful what you are promising because you might have to fulfill it. I suggest you do some research before you make that comment of yours. I believe there are Caucasian Americans who wanted to be China citizens, but China may not have the law to allow such change of citizenship.

      June 20, 2012 at 11:43 pm | Report abuse |
  22. Dorothy

    People in my opinion generally should not waste time apologizing for the actions of their long deceased ancestors, generations and generations ago, until they stand in their shoes. What other types of historical events will Congress seek to address next? Don't the members have anything more current to worry about?

    June 19, 2012 at 11:30 pm | Report abuse |
    • Al

      I'm willing to bet 90% of Chinese Americans do more important work than you do. I'm pretty sure you're a huge loser.

      June 19, 2012 at 11:57 pm | Report abuse |
    • Adlas

      You're an idiot, have you even been to China? 10% economic growth a year, most millionaires in the world, booming thriving economy and culture. It's the 'whites' that are envious and desperate to seek Chinese patronage. Who do you think holds the most US debt? China. Why else do you think the House would apologise to Chinese. They desperately need Chinese money to keep their country from going bankrupt. Idiot.

      June 19, 2012 at 11:59 pm | Report abuse |
    • Thomas

      I agree Dorothy, why doesn't Congress apologize for favoring the wealthy (a small percentage of Americans) over the vast majority of Americans who saw most or all of their savings and net worth evaporate due to a financial crises created by the greed of the wealthy! It seems far more relevant today.

      June 20, 2012 at 12:38 am | Report abuse |
      • Old Paratrooper

        Favor the rich!!??? All our money goes to two places: To the lazy slugs on welfare, who get medicaid, food stamps, public housing, cellphones; and Congress. Give me a break and educate yourself. Today 51% 0f Americans support 49%. How is that sustainable? Why do we have deficits? Why do we have the highest corporate taxes in the world? Why do we have 15% unemployment? Why? Why? Because democrats want it that way.

        June 20, 2012 at 8:09 am | Report abuse |
      • Thomas

        Old Paratrooper, seems to me you need to educate yourself... or else you missed the entire point of my comment or more likely BOTH! I love how people like you try to pin this all on Democrats or all on Republicans... shows your true ignorance... or maybe you're just a rich politician and I hit a nerve.

        June 20, 2012 at 10:55 am | Report abuse |
      • young paratrooper

        Old Paratrooper I'm confused 51% of Americans support 49%? That would imply almost half of Americans are on some type of government assistance. Do you realize also that if you are talking about the 51% of Americans that they say pay no taxes isn't what people are actually making it to be. The fact is 51% of Americans get a refund or have no tax payment due on April 15th. Now for everyone that post that ridiculous comment think about whether or not you recieved a tax refund.

        June 21, 2012 at 1:16 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sam

      Trust me no one has envy for white people anymore, look at the laws and tell me which racial group has the least amount of rights... YEP that correct WHITE AMERICANS...but of course no one cares because only white people can be racist... when will we actually have equal rights for everyone.

      June 20, 2012 at 1:16 am | Report abuse |
      • Gethetruth

        To begin with, the Whites had all the rights for themselves, others got some only when they demanded it.

        June 22, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |

      II don't agree with you. It is not a person who apologize for what his grandfather did. It is the apology from the government for the passing the law–that has hurt, insulted, abused a specific race for over 60 years, how many generations, at least two generations.

      June 20, 2012 at 6:57 pm | Report abuse |
  23. david

    china has changed a lot.if u go there u will be stunned,their culture, tradition all changed.once there was a stable social system now its worse.chinese girls were good to marry but now they are the expert on cheating.their mind totally changed.its already becoming a free country only GOD knows what would happen to this country.it will be a worse place for raising children.i think chinese government should do something about it.its also happening because they don't have any religion,that's the most scary thing when people don't follow any religion,most scary thing more than billion people.

    June 19, 2012 at 10:56 pm | Report abuse |
    • david

      sorry not all the girls but i found many girls like this who has bf but they don't mind to go out with the other boys and do anything with them.sorry if i hurt chinese people.but that is the truth cz im the victim.i had many chinese female friends and they did like this.i really don't know why suddenly chinese girls changed their mind so suddenly.their social system will be unstable.i think chinese government and the families should do something about it.

      June 19, 2012 at 11:00 pm | Report abuse |
      • Ronin1871

        You sound bitter, probably rejected by many Chinese girls. I don't think they like obese people.

        June 19, 2012 at 11:58 pm | Report abuse |
  24. SOA

    Well done! Truly surprised that law was still on the books. God bless America and we are all equal. I just with China would get the message and change their behavior.

    June 19, 2012 at 10:23 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ronin1871

      I'll second that if America prosecutes Bush and Co. for illegally invading Iraq using lies and trickery.

      June 19, 2012 at 11:59 pm | Report abuse |
  25. angryboomer

    And what about China's own immigration controls? China.org.cn has this blunt and direct summary about immigration to China:

    China is not an immigrant country. No law or regulations are set permitting immigration. A foreigner is only allowed to reside here for reasons of work, study, travel, or marriage over a certain period of time.
    Sounds like the Chinese want China to remain Chinese. And there's nothing wrong with that – preserving your traditional culture is what sovereignty is all about.

    June 19, 2012 at 9:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Ronin1871

      USA is a country built on immigration. China is not. Either way everyone has to be treated equally.

      June 20, 2012 at 12:00 am | Report abuse |
    • EuroZone Observer


      June 20, 2012 at 1:19 am | Report abuse |

      USA was a new and young country in 1882, opened its door to everybody, free entry, but with this Chinese exclusion act based on racism. Do you think it is right? Those Chinese labors worked so hard, many of them gave their life to this land, but did not have any human right, does it sound right to you?

      China has a history of at least 2000 years, USA is above 200years. I believe after another 1800 years USA does not have space for large amount new immigrants any more. Even now, USA is not free entry, all immigrants need to wait to be approved.

      June 20, 2012 at 6:52 pm | Report abuse |
      • @ChineseRage

        I would like to apologize to General Tso, General Tao, General Gau, and General Tang for not ordering your chicken dish last night because of MSG. Me so solly.

        February 9, 2013 at 5:59 pm | Report abuse |
  26. wagnertinatlanta

    I'm so glad that Congress has got through all the necessary work on their agenda like passing the budget and has time to apologize for a 130-year-old insult to the Chinese. GET BACK TO WORK, YOU CLOWNS!

    June 19, 2012 at 8:36 pm | Report abuse |
  27. torqueflite

    Good, that's a start. Now, let's abolish the so-called "Defense of Marriage" Act and apologize to all the gay Americans it has hurt.

    June 19, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Report abuse |
  28. Bernie Leung

    Thanks for the great work. It takes a big heart to admit one's wrong. But let's don't forget this lesson learned.
    What a Great Day for Our Country!

    June 19, 2012 at 5:07 pm | Report abuse |
  29. TONG

    Thanks to Judy Chu,

    June 19, 2012 at 5:03 pm | Report abuse |
    • Sagar

      Thanks for bringing this to my atnettion! We have a few clients traveling to Zambia in June and I'm sure they would LOVE to hear about this amazing special! I have no yet heard of Avocado Spa but I love the name and it looks very chic. Thanks!

      September 14, 2012 at 7:43 am | Report abuse |
  30. Benjamin Zhao

    Thank you all have contributed to this action. This country can only get better after we say goodbye to the old wounds caused by historical injustices.

    June 19, 2012 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
  31. Emma Jo

    Let learn from the past and move on.

    June 19, 2012 at 3:26 pm | Report abuse |