Chinese Jamaicans

Chinese Jamaicans
China Jamaica
Total population
75,000[1]
Regions with significant populations
Jamaica: Montego Bay
Overseas: Toronto (Canada), New York City, South Florida (United States), England (United Kingdom)
Languages
Jamaican English, Jamaican Patois, Hakka; recent immigrants and businesspeople also speak Mandarin
Religion
Christianity (primarily Catholicism and Anglicanism) with some elements of Chinese folk religion[2]
Related ethnic groups
Hakka people, Ethnic Chinese in Panama, Jamaican Americans, Jamaican Canadians

Chinese Jamaicans are Jamaicans of Chinese ancestry, which include descendants of migrants from China to Jamaica. Early migrants came in the 19th century; there was another wave of migration in the 1980s and 1990s. Many of the descendants of early migrants have moved abroad, primarily to Canada and the United States.[3] Most Chinese Jamaicans are Hakka and can trace their origin to the coolies and labourers who came to Jamaica in the mid-19th to early 20th centuries.

Migration history

Despite an old census record stating a "Chinese Painter" named Isaak Lawson lived in Montego Bay, St. James, way back in the year 1774, most Chinese Jamaicans are Hakka and can trace their origin to the indentured labourers who came to Jamaica in the mid-19th to early 20th centuries.[4] The British parliament made a study of prospects for Chinese migration to the West Indies in 1811, and in 1843 made an attempt to recruit Chinese workers to come to Jamaica, British Guiana, and Trinidad and Tobago, but nothing came of it.[5] The two earliest ships of Chinese migrant workers to Jamaica arrived in 1854, the first directly from China, the second composed of onward migrants from Panama who were contracted for plantation work.[6] A further 200 would arrive in the years up until 1870, mostly from other Caribbean islands. Later, in 1884, a third wave of 680 Chinese migrants would arrive. With the exception of a few from Sze Yup, most of these migrants were Hakka people from Dongguan, Huiyang, and Bao'an. This third wave of migrants would go on to bring more of their relatives over from China.[4]

The influx of Chinese indentured immigrants aimed to replace the outlawed system of black slavery. It entailed signing a five-year contract that bound the labors physically to specific planters and their estates, and subjected them to physical and financial penalties whenever any contractural conditions were broken.[7] The contracts consisted of a $4 wage for a 12-hour work day, also including food, clothing, medical care, and housing, although these contracts were regularly violated.[8] Chinese immigrants could also arrive independent of the indentured system. These independent immigrants could come by paying their own way as an individual free migrant, or they could come sponsored and have their passage paid for reimbursement later.[9] In 1917, the entire indentured immigration system was outlawed, largely due to pressure from Gandhi, who was then leading the nationalist movement in India.[7]

From 1910, Chinese immigrants were required to pay a £30 deposit and pass a written test to demonstrate that they could write 50 words in three different languages. The restrictions on Chinese migrants were tightened even further in 1931, but relaxed again by 1947 due to lobbying by the Chinese consulate.[10] The 1943 census showed 12,394 Chinese residing in Jamaica. These were divided into three categories by the census, namely "China-born" (2,818), "local-born" (4,061), and "Chinese coloured" (5,515), the latter referring to multiracial people of mixed African and Chinese descent. This made Chinese Jamaicans the second largest Chinese population in the Caribbean, behind Chinese Cubans.[11][12] By 1963, the Chinese had a virtual monopoly on retail trade in Jamaica, controlling 90% of dry goods stores and 95% of supermarkets, along with extensive holdings in other sectors such as laundries and betting parlours.[13]

In the 1970s, thousands of Chinese Jamaicans fled a wave of inter-ethnic violence against them; at first, they went primarily to Canada, which was more open to immigration than the United States, with the U.S. becoming a major immigration destination later on. As a result, clusters of Chinese Jamaicans can be found outside Jamaica primarily in locales like Toronto, New York City, and South Florida. However, in the 1980s and 1990s, there was a new wave of Chinese migration to Jamaica, consisting of Hong Kong and Taiwanese entrepreneurs who set up textile factories on the island targeting the U.S. market and often brought in migrant workers from China to staff their ventures.[3]

Other Languages
Bahasa Melayu: Orang Cina di Jamaica