Chinese Surinamese

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Chinese Surinamese
Tropenmuseum Royal Tropical Institute Objectnumber 60012337 Portret van een Chinese immigrantenfa.jpg
Chinese migrant family.
Total population
about 40,000 (2011)[1]
Regions with significant populations
Paramaribo · Wanica
Hakka Chinese · Cantonese · Sranan Tongo
Related ethnic groups
Chinese Caribbean

Chinese Surinamese are Surinamese residents of Chinese origin. Chinese Surinamese are a small part of the Surinamese people. There are about 40,000 Chinese among the 566,846 Surinamese people,[2] constituting about 7% of the total population. The majority of the Chinese Surinamese consider Hakka (Dongguan, Huiyang or Bao'an) of Guangdong as their ancestral homes. There is a small minority of Heshan, Guangdong Hakka 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]

In 1853 planters in Suriname feared a labor shortage when slavery was 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 for a long time held a prominent position in small and medium business and their mostly well-educated offspring of mixed blood or Chinese blood can be found in various social sectors. Also, the Surinamese people have adopted several Chinese customs.

Notable people[edit]

Surinamese people of Chinese origin
Dutch people of Chinese-Surinamese 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.
  • 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]