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Chin, Hoi Meen (1917–1982)

by Peter Cahill

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

Hoi Meen Chin (1917?-1982), photographer and businessman, was born probably on 28 January 1917 in Rabaul, Australian-occupied German New Guinea, son of Ah Chee, hotelkeeper, and his wife Kulasa. He attended a Methodist mission school before working for an Australian firm as delivery-boy, native overseer and truck driver, and then for the Department of Agriculture as a weather observer and clerk. In the evenings he collected tickets at the local cinema and practised photography. On 11 May 1935 at the Methodist Church, Rabaul, he married Wan Sit-Ying (Wan June Lan).

Early in 1941 Chin and other Chinese residents, determined to help defend Rabaul in the event of attack, had formed the Auxiliary Red Cross Ambulance Detachment. After the Japanese occupation in January 1942, they moved to Sum Sum plantation at Adler Bay on the south coast of New Britain and Chin began secretly collecting information for the Allied Intelligence Bureau. In 1943-44 he provided oral intelligence and drew maps of Japanese troop disposition and supply dumps in the Rabaul area for the AIB officers Major Charles Bates and Major Basil Fairfax-Ross. He also hid and guided to safety crashed American airmen. In 1946 Chin was awarded the King’s Medal for courage in the cause of freedom, the citation stating: `His work for the A.I.B. was voluntary and always at the risk of his own life’. In 1954 he was presented to Queen Elizabeth II in recognition of his heroism.

After the war Chin had resumed work with the Department of Agriculture. Later he established himself as a merchant and milk-bar proprietor and began a photography business. He served as the unofficial Administration photographer in Rabaul, acted as interpreter for Chinese residents (particularly in war damage compensation cases), helped to reorganise the ruined town and wrote again for the Pacific Islands Monthly magazine as he had before the war. A respected and trusted leader in the Chinese community, a councillor for the Rabaul Methodist Church, a promoter of sporting clubs as a means of breaking down social barriers, and a generous and usually anonymous donor to fund-raising activities, he served on the town advisory council.

Chin was one of the first New Guinea Chinese to be granted (1958) Australian citizenship. In 1964 he expanded his activities to Port Moresby with a prosperous business in photographic and electrical goods. He consolidated his interests in two companies: Territory Film Processing Pty Ltd (1966) and Chin Hoi Meen & Sons Pty Ltd (1967). Chin retained links with Rabaul and was proud that a street in Rabaul was named Ah Chee Avenue in honour of his father, who had been decorated by the Chinese and German governments. A gracious and humble man, Chin Hoi Meen was forced through ill health to retire in 1977 and settle in Brisbane. He died there of cerebral glioma on 31 March 1982 and was buried in Mount Gravatt cemetery. His wife and their two sons and three daughters survived him.

Select Bibliography

  • M. Wright, If I Die (1965)
  • South Pacific Post (Port Moresby), 18 Sept 1967, p 7, 10 Nov 1967, p 7
  • Times of Papua New Guinea (Port Moresby), 23 Apr 1982, p 27
  • P. H. Cahill, The Chinese in Rabaul 1914-1920 (MA thesis, University of Papua New Guinea, 1972) and for bibliography
  • AWM88, item O/C7 CIVIC (Australian War Memorial)
  • series A1803, items EM(2)14251, EM(2) 14256, EM(2)14500 (National Archives of Australia).

Citation details

Peter Cahill, 'Chin, Hoi Meen (1917–1982)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/chin-hoi-meen-12313/text22117, published first in hardcopy 2007, accessed online 19 October 2018.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Volume 17, (MUP), 2007

View the front pages for Volume 17

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