Thursday, June 16, 2016

Dr Victor Chang recounts 1918 Anti-Chinese Riot

Excerpt from Jamaica Observer column published MON 13 JUNE 2016
by Jean Lowrie-Chin
Dr Victor Chang - from TalkingTrees -

Who has ever heard about an Anti-Chinese Riot in Jamaica in 1918?  We knew about the 1966 riots because the grocery store of our schoolmates, the Hoo Ping Kongs, had been burned down by rioters, although they had absolutely nothing to do with the conflict which had started in a downtown bakery.
So when we heard that Dr Victor Chang, known for his witty turn of phrase and great humour, would be speaking on this unbeknownst topic at the monthly meeting of the Chinese Cultural Association, we marked our calendars – this was a ‘must hear’. 

Dr Chang gave the background for the simmering animosity between African-Jamaicans and the Chinese: “Clearly, the entrenched oppositional stance between blacks and Chinese was part of a scheme by the colonial powers.  From the outset they had in mind that bringing the Chinese to the Caribbean was a sound strategic move since they would be “a barrier between us and the negroes, with whom they do not associate; and consequently to whom they will always offer a formidable opposition...”

This resentment grew when the Chinese were allowed to do trading on the estates where they worked, amassing enough to set up shops throughout the Jamaican countryside. 
Added to this, was the fact that the Chinese men had arrived without wives, and had African-Jamaican paramours.  This was the case for the grocer Fong Sue, of Ewarton, whose paramour, Caroline Lindo, lived with him.

 “The fact that the grocer had become involved with a black woman did not make him any more acceptable to the blacks because he still remained “othered”; there was some resentment that he should be taking one of the local women, and there were still bizarre speculations and beliefs about the Chinese which would be shown up in the riots.”

He quotes historian Howard Johnson’s account from a 1982 Caribbean Quarterly article: “Fong Sue, the Chinese grocer, had left his shop on Sunday, 7 July, in charge of his paramour, a creole woman, Caroline Lindo.  He was not expected to return that night.  Acting Corporal McDonald, who was in charge of the Ewarton Police Station, took advantage of Fong Sue’s absence to sleep with his paramour.  Fong Sue returned that same night unexpectedly, at about 11 o’clock, to find McDonald in an intimate embrace with Lindo… McDonald was given a beating by Fong Sue, with the help of a few Chinese friends, and then made good his escape.  He did not return to the police station but remained hidden in the bushes for two days.  He eventually re-appeared at the police station on the night of Tuesday, 9 July, to resume his duties.

Rumours swirled that Corporal McDonald had been killed, and attacks against the Chinese “encompassed St. Ann, St. Catherine, St. Mary and Clarendon.” Mischief-makers used it as an opportunity to loot the shops, and at the end of the melĂ©e on July 11, 22 shops had been destroyed. 

Prof Anthony Chen

Dr Chang’s address was preceded by the Annual General Meeting of the Chinese Cultural Association, at which Professor Anthony Chen was re-elected President. Membership in the association is open to everyone, not only persons of Chinese ancestry.

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