British Chinese

British Chinese
Total population
United Kingdom United Kingdom approx. 433,150 (2011)England England 379,502 – 0.7% (2011)
Scotland Scotland 33,706 – 0.6% (2011)
Wales Wales 13,638 – 0.4% (2011)
Northern Ireland Northern Ireland 6,303 – 0.3% (2011)
0.7% of the UK's population (2011)
Regions with significant populations
London, Belfast, Manchester, Birmingham, Liverpool, Glasgow, Sheffield, Cardiff, Newcastle upon Tyne, Nottingham, Edinburgh, York, Oxford, Brighton, Norwich
English, Mandarin, Cantonese, Min, Hakka
Irreligion, Conscious Atheism, Taoism, Buddhism, Roman Catholicism, Protestantism
Related ethnic groups
Overseas Chinese

British Chinese (also known as Chinese British, Chinese Britons; simplified Chinese: 英国华侨; traditional Chinese: 英國華僑; pinyin: Yīngguó Huáqiáo; Cantonese Yale: Yīnggwok Wàkìu) are people of Chinese – particularly Han Chinese – ancestry who reside in the United Kingdom, constituting the second or third-largest group of overseas Chinese in Europe apart from the Chinese diaspora in France and the overseas Chinese community in Russia[citation needed]. The British Chinese community is thought to be the oldest Chinese community in Western Europe, with the first Chinese immigrants having come from the ports of Tianjin and Shanghai in the early-nineteenth century to settle in port cities such as Liverpool. They opened restaurants on the ports.

Most British Chinese are descended from people who were themselves overseas Chinese when they first arrived in the UK. Most are from former British colonies, such as: Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Canada, Australia, New Zealand and Mauritius. People from mainland China and Taiwan and their descendants constitute a relatively minor, albeit growing, proportion of the British Chinese community[citation needed]. Chinese communities are found in many major cities including: London, Birmingham, Glasgow, Manchester, Liverpool, Newcastle, Edinburgh, Cardiff, Sheffield, Nottingham, Belfast, and Aberdeen.

Compared with most ethnic minorities in the UK, the Chinese are socioeconomically more widespread and decentralised, have a record of high academic achievement, and have the second highest household income among demographic groups in the UK, after British Indians.[1]


First visitor, first immigrant and first to be naturalised

Shen Fu-Tsung was the first ever recorded ethnic Chinese person to set foot in what is now the United Kingdom, having visited over 300 years ago in 1685

The first recorded Chinese person in Britain was Shen Fu Tsong, a Jesuit scholar who was present in the court of King James II in the 17th century. Shen was the first person to catalogue the Chinese books in the Bodleian Library. The King was so taken with him he had his portrait painted by Sir Godfrey Kneller and hung it in his bed chamber. The portrait of Shen is in the Queen's collection.[2]

The first Chinese to settle in Britain was William Macao who lived in Edinburgh from 1779. He was the first Chinese to marry a British woman and have children, and was the first to be baptised into the Protestant Church. He worked for The Board of Excise at Dundas House, St Andrew Square, Edinburgh for 40 years, beginning as a servant to the clerks and retiring as Senior Accountant. He was involved in a significant naturalisation law case and for two years, until the first decision was over-turned on appeal, was legally deemed a naturalised Scotsman. For a full biography see Chapter 2, The Chinese in Britain - A History of Visitors and Settlers by Barclay Price.[2][3]

The British East India Company which was importing popular Chinese commodities such as tea, ceramics and silks began employing Chinese seamen from the early 1880s. Those who crewed ships to Britain had to spend time in London's dock area while waiting for a ship to return to China and so the Limehouse area became the site of the first Chinatown in Britain. A Chinese known as John Anthony was brought to London in 1799 by the East India Company to manage the barracks where the Asian sailors stayed. Anthony married his British partner's daughter. Wishing to buy property, but unable to so while an alien, in 1805 he used part of the fortune he had amassed from his London work to pay for an Act of Parliament.[4] naturalising him as a British subject; thus being the first Chinese to gain British citizenship. However, he died a few months after the Act was passed.