Chinese seamen and Britain’s betrayal

An interesting piece in the Independent on the history of Chinese seamen who have served Britain and been badly mistreated for their efforts by my two friends Sonny Leong and Yvonne Foley.

Britain’s double Chinese betrayal?
Tuesday, 28 February 2012 at 10:02 am

The relationship between the Chinese and the British goes back over 200 years. And the products of that relationship are evident throughout what used to be Britain’s Empire. It can be seen in the architecture it left behind in Shanghai and Hong Kong and in the populations of Chinese descent living in Britain and the countries that were part of that Empire, both formal and informal.

The East India Company recruited Chinese seamen in the eighteenth century to man its trading vessels in the Far East. The Royal Navy recruited them in the Napoleonic Wars. Heirs to the Great Voyages of Admiral Zheng He, they were known to be excellent seamen, sober and industrious.

Chinese seamen in their thousands were used in the British merchant fleet in both the First and Second World Wars, most sailing out of the city of Liverpool in the North West of England. Hundreds of these men settled down with local women and began to raise families only to find that at the end of the conflict that they were no longer needed.

After World War I men found themselves unable to get work, some waiting two years to find a ship. After World War II, the situation was to be far worse. Almost twenty thousand Chinese mariners were based in Liverpool manning the convoys that brought the supplies from the USA without which Britain could not fight the War. Like in the first conflict, hundreds formed relationships with girls in the city and had children. At least a thousand babies were born to these Anglo-Chinese couples.

Read more here

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