When Britain expelled Chinese immigrants… Details of the crisis

During the month of September 1839, Britain moved to intervene militarily against China, during the Qing dynasty, as part of what was known as the First Opium War.

With the end of this war in 1842, Britain obtained commercial gains that coincided with its seizure of Hong Kong. After about 14 years, the battles between the two parties were renewed, beginning in the year 1856, as part of what was known at the time as the Second Opium War, which also witnessed the intervention of France and the United States of America, who in turn tried to obtain commercial gains in China.

In addition, the Opium Wars contributed to the growing influence of the British in China. As a result, commercial relations between the two countries developed and at the same time allowed many Chinese to move to live in Britain.

The Chinese in Britain

In 1866, Alfred Holt, a British businessman and merchant, opened the Blue Funnel Line, a marine enterprise that soon dominated many commercial sea transportation operations between various parts of China and Liverpool.

In addition, this institution attracted many Chinese workers who worked for it during the sea transportation between China and Britain. Thanks to this, a large number of Chinese settled in Britain.

A part of the Chinese Labor Corps during World War I

During World War I, Britain tended to exploit many Chinese within the Chinese Labor Corps, which consisted of about 150,000 Chinese. At that time, this corps was entrusted with arduous tasks, such as digging trenches and shipping military equipment and ammunition.

With the end of World War I, the British refused to recognize the role of this Chinese legion. In addition, Britain has witnessed many waves of ethnic violence directed against Chinese immigrants.

During World War II, Britain tended to rely on tens of thousands of Chinese residing in its lands as part of the Labor Corps.

Concomitantly, the British media tended to exaggerate the role of the Chinese in the war to highlight the unity and cohesion of the British population in the face of the Nazis.

In the midst of World War II, Chinese workers went on strike in February 1942 because of their living conditions. To satisfy them, the British authorities agreed to raise the wages of these workers in the hope of keeping them in the ranks of the army.

deportation of the Chinese

With the end of World War II, Britain turned its back on these Chinese immigrants residing on its lands, as the authorities reduced their salaries and terminated the privileges granted to them in wartime.

A picture of Chinese workers transporting supplies to the war front

During the month of October 1945, representatives of the Ministries of the Interior, Foreign Affairs, War Transport, and the Liverpool Police met to confer on the issue of Chinese immigrants and their future in the country.

After a series of talks, British officials passed what was known as File HO 213/926, which stated that the unwanted Chinese sailors should be deported. In addition, the British concealed the truth about this file, which was classified as illegal. According to British lawmakers, the authorities were allowed to expel Chinese sailors who were found guilty of crimes and dismissed from service.

The British authorities in Liverpool began arresting the Chinese sailors, after forcing them to sign demobilization documents, in preparation for their deportation to their homeland. On the other hand, the British prepared transport ships intended for deportation by setting up prisons inside them to imprison the Chinese sailors who refused the deportation decision.

In Liverpool, policemen did not hesitate to launch night raids and storm homes to arrest Chinese sailors, many of whom married British women.

During the deportations that continued into late 1946, Liverpool saw many protests as British women rejected the decision to deport their Chinese husbands and called on the Prime Minister to intervene. In addition, the British authorities refused to listen to them, thus continuing the deportations that separated a large number of families and ended with the departure of tens of thousands of Chinese.

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