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Lee Chong

Lee Chong (or Lee Chang) was one of the earliest Chinese immigrants to Victoria, and he managed the Kwong Lee Company from its establishment in this city in 1858, the year that large-scale Chinese immigration began to the colonies of Vancouver Island and British Columbia, today the Pacific province of Canada. By 1862, this Chinese company was second only to the Hudson’s Bay Company in terms of its taxable properties in Victoria, and it later developed at least seven branches in the gold-mining towns of British Columbia: Yale, Lytton, Clinton, Lillooet, Quesnel, Stanley, and Barkerville.

Because the Kwong Lee Company was so well-known among local residents, its name was sometimes used to refer to Lee Chong. In 1863, one English visitor to Victoria described “Kwong Lee,” or Lee Chong, as “quite a gentleman of most polite manners and very intelligent,” and as a fluent English speaker “free from Yankee twang and slang.” His wife came to Victoria with a child in the spring of 1860, and she was the first Chinese woman to arrive in what would become Canadian territory. Lee Chong also acted frequently as a major leader and representative of the local Chinese community in Victoria. In 1864, for instance, “Kwong Lee” led a local Chinese petition to the new governor of the Colony of Vancouver Island, Arthur E. Kennedy, demanding just treatment. The petition also requested that the colonial government should make Victoria a free port, remove import tariffs on goods from China, and grant favourable treatment to the Chinese merchants from California.

By Zhongping Chen


Hong, W. M. …And So … That’s How It Happened: Recollections of Stanley-Barkerville. Quesnel, B.C., 1978.

Morton, James. In the Sea of Sterile Mountains: The Chinese in British Columbia. Vancouver, J. J. Douglas Ltd., 1974.

Wickberg, Edgar et al., From China to Canada: A History of the Chinese Communities in Canada. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart Ltd., 1982.