Chinese Surinamese

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Chinese Surinamese people
Total population
7,885 (2012)[1]
Regions with significant populations
Paramaribo · Wanica
Hakka Chinese · Cantonese · Mandarin · Dutch · Sranan Tongo
Related ethnic groups
Chinese Caribbean

Chinese Surinamese people are Surinamese residents of Chinese origin. Chinese Surinamese are a small part of the Surinamese people. There were 7,885 Chinese at the 2012 census,[1] constituting 1.5% of the total population. They constitute the largest component of the 'other' ethnic category, which makes up 2.3% of the population as per the CIA World Factbook.[2] The majority of the Chinese Surinamese consider Hakka (Dongguan, Huiyang, Huizhou or Bao'an, Shenzhen) of Guangdong as their ancestral homes. There is a small minority of Heshan, Jiangmen origin Cantonese and Hakkas as well.

Many Chinese Surinamese are active in the retail and business community. Six percent of the Chinese in the Netherlands are from Suriname.


Contract workers[edit]

Southern Chinese migrant family

In 1853, planters in Suriname feared a labor shortage when slavery was about to be abolished. They asked the government to recruit other workers from abroad.

The government of Java recruited a group of 18 Chinese for contract labor in the Catharina Sophia plantation in Saramacca. Because of the high acquisition costs, it was decided to get a second group, not from Java, but from China instead. In 1858, 500 Chinese laborers were recruited by the Dutch consul in Macau. They arrived in Suriname in April, but it turned out that no one wanted to hire people to do work that slaves would do "for free".

Because of this, the contract with the Chinese was changed without their knowledge by Governor Charles Pierre Schimpf, in favor of the employers. The Chinese could now be treated like slaves. When they would revolt against this, they were, without due process and contrary to existing regulations, punished by police with cane strokes, an unlawful act that was repeated again and again.

An interpellation (formal request for information) to the Minister of Colonies Jan Jacob Rochussen did not help.

In the 1850s and 1860s, about 2,500 Chinese people went to Suriname. Most were employed as contract laborers on the plantations. After their contracts expired, many found opportunities in trade, mostly in food retail. Most of the male laborers were married to non-Chinese women. Those who married Chinese women, mostly married with an imported bride.

Later immigrants[edit]

Other Chinese came to Suriname as free laborers, traders and shop assistants, especially in the 1950s and 1960s. Further large numbers came in the 1990s. In 2007, there were over 70,000 Chinese in Suriname, and the immigration is still ongoing. The rapidly growing demand in China for wood and minerals makes Suriname very attractive to Chinese businesses. The new Chinese migrants from northern China are known in Suriname as "salt-water-Chinese".

Since the 1960s, thousands of Chinese have emigrated from Suriname to the Netherlands.

The Chinese held a prominent position in small and medium business for a long time, and their mostly well-educated offspring of mixed ancestry or Chinese ancestry can be found in various social sectors. Also, the Surinamese people have adopted several Chinese customs.


The original Chinese settlers were Hakka from the Fuitungon region of Guangdong;[3] Fui5tung1on1 means three places: Huiyang, Huizhou or Fui5jong2, Dongguan or tung1kon1, and Bao'an County, Shenzhen or pau3on1,[4] Kejia (Hakka) was originally present and became the "old Chinese" of Guyana.[3] It was previously the only spoken variety of Chinese in the country.[5] Paul Brendan Tjon Sie Fat of the University of Amsterdam stated that Hakka people in Suriname do not frequently voice negative attitudes towards the fact that Kejia has a lower status than Dutch in Suriname.[6]

In the 1970s Cantonese was introduced into Suriname.[5] Beginning in the 1990s new migrants from China moved to Suriname,[4] and Putonghua, during circa 2004-2014, became the main Chinese lingua franca in the country.[6]

There are Mandarin and Cantonese television shows aired in Suriname.[6]

Notable people[edit]


  1. ^ a b "Censusstatistieken 2012" (PDF). Algemeen Bureau voor de Statistiek in Suriname (General Statistics Bureau of Suriname). p. 76.
  2. ^ "The World Factbook — Central Intelligence Agency".
  3. ^ a b Tjon Sie Fat, "They Might as Well Be Speaking Chinese," p. 199.
  4. ^ a b Tjon, "They Might as Well Be Speaking Chinese," p. 196.
  5. ^ a b Tjon, "They Might as Well Be Speaking Chinese," p. 201.
  6. ^ a b c Tjon Sie Fat, "They Might as Well Be Speaking Chinese," p. 202.
  7. ^ "World sport stars of Chinese origin".


  • Tseng, F., De grote oversteek: het lot van de Surinaamse Chinezen, China Nu 16 (4), 1991, 16-18.
  • Ankum-Houwink, J.C., De migratie van Chinezen naar Suriname, (z.p. ca. 1972).
  • Ankum-Houwink, J.C., Chinese kontraktarbeiders in Suriname in de 19e eeuw, OSO, 4 (2), 1985, 181-186.
  • Groenfelt, E., Impressies van de Chinese gemeenschap in Suriname: enkele culturele aspecten van Chinezen in Suriname, (z.p. 1995).
  • Kom, Anton de, Wij slaven van Suriname, 1934
  • Lamur, H.E., en J.A. Vriezen, Chinese kontraktanten in Suriname, OSO, 4 (2), 1985, 169-179.
  • Man A Hing, W.L., The Hakkas in Surinam, in: The proceedings of the international conference on Hakkaology, (Hong Kong 1994), 189-195.
  • Tjon Sie Fat, Paul B. Chinese New Migrants in Suriname: The Inevitability of Ethnic Performing (UvA Proefschriften Series). Amsterdam University Press, September 1, 2009. ISBN 9056295985, 9789056295981. Link at Google Books.
  • Tjon Sie Fat, Paul B. "Old and New Chinese Organizations in Suriname" (Part IV: Chinese Migration in Other Countries: Chapter 12). In: Zhang, Jijiao and Howard Duncan. Migration in China and Asia: Experience and Policy (Volume 10 of International Perspectives on Migration). Springer Science & Business Media, April 8, 2014. ISBN 940178759X, 9789401787598. Start p. 189.
  • Tjon Sie Fat, Paul B. "They Might as Well Be Speaking Chinese: The Changing Chinese Linguistic Situation in Suriname under New Migration." In: Carlin, Eithne B., Isabelle Léglise, Bettina Migge, and Paul B. Tjon Sie Fat. In and Out of Suriname: Language, Mobility and Identity (Caribbean Series). Brill Publishers, November 28, 2014. ISBN 900428012X, 9789004280120. Start p. 196.
  • Zijlmans, G.C. en H.A. Enser, De Chinezen in Suriname. een geschiedenis van immigratie en aanpassing 1853-2000, ISBN 90-806479-3-4.

External links[edit]