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History of Chinese in Britain

1686

1686

A young Jesuit convert from Nanking called Shen Fu Tsong arrived at the court of James II and became the first recorded instance of a Chinese person in Britain.

1803

1803

British shipping companies employ Chinese sailors during the Napoleonic wars to replace the British sailors called up to serve in the British navy. They discover that the Chinese are cheaper, don’t get drunk and are easier to command.

1805

1805

A specific Act of Parliament allows a Chinese man known as John Anthony to become the first Chinese man to be naturalized as a British citizen.

1815

1815

British shipping companies employ Chinese sailors during the Napoleonic wars to replace the British sailors called up to serve in the British navy. They discover that the Chinese are cheaper, don’t get drunk and are easier to command.

1842

1842

Britain defeats China in the first Opium War. Under the terms of the Treaty of Nanking, Hong Kong becomes a British colony.

1855

1855

The first Chinese student to graduate from a British university was Wong Fun who received his MD in 1855 from Edinburgh. (He marked the beginning of a steady flow of students from China)

1857

1857

The Second Opium War results in the unequal Treaties of Tianjin which includes a clause allowing Britain and France to recruit Chinese to the British Colonies, North and South America and Australia as cheap labor ("Coolies") following the cessation of the slave trade.

1860

1860

The launch of new steam ships create increased recruitment of Chinese seamen to work on trading routes from the Far East. Chinese seamen are treated shabbily, with less pay and rights than their British counterparts — a practice that will continue well into the 20th century.

1865

The first direct steamship service from Europe to China was established in Liverpool.

1877

1877

Kuo Sung-Tao, the first Chinese minister to Britain.

1880

1880

(after China’s defeat in the Opium Wars and, as with the lascars, were mainly seamen.) First wave of Chinese immigrants who arrived. The first Chinese Community in Britain ---Chinese Community Centre, in Chinatown Limehouse.

1891

1891

The Census recorded 582 Chinese-born residents in Britain.

1901

1901

The first Chinese laundry opened in Poplar, and it was immediately stoned by a hostile xenophobic crowd.

1917

A British ship carries 1,083 Chinese from Shandong bound for Le Havre, as part of the first group of a total of nearly 100,000 recruited to unload munitions and supplies in France for the Allied effort in WWI.

1918

Census records show the number of Chinese living in Pennyfields, Poplar at 182; all are men, 9 have English wives.

1890 there were two distinct, if small, Chinese communities living in east London. After the 1890s, the Chinese community in the East End grew in size and spread eastwards, from the original settlement in Limehouse Causeway into Pennyfields. This area was provided for the Lascar, Chinese, and Japanese sailors working the Oriental routes into the Port of London.

1929

1929

The bank of China set up a branch office in London in November.

The branch managed the government's foreign debt, became a center for the bank's management of its foreign exchange, and acted as an intermediary for China's international trade.

1935

The first Chinese school—the Zhonghua Middle School—was established in Middlefields, Ealing with thirty students.

1939

When World War II broke out in full in Europe, 20,000 Chinese manned the oil-tankers on the dangerous Atlantic run.During both world wars, hundreds of thousands of Chinese seamen and workers were recruited and many hundreds were killed and injured aboard British ships.Despite such risks, Chinese seamen were treated far worse, with less pay and fewer rights than their British counterparts.

1950

1950

Diplomatic relations standardised and Chinese community began to focus on Soho in London for the theatre trade.

2006

2006

A memorial plaque in remembrance for Chinese seamen who served during WWII is erected on Liverpool's Pier Head. Most were forcibly repatriated after WWII, leaving behind wives and children they would never see again.

2010

2010

8 British Chinese PPCs have put themselves forward for the General Election hoping to secure political office and in the process become the first British Chinese MP.

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