Mauritians of Chinese origin

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Regions with significant populations
Half in Port Louis, with small numbers all over the island[1][2]
Mauritian Creole, French, English,[3] Chinese (predominantly Hakka and Cantonese)[1][4]
Christianity, Chinese folk religion (including Confucianism and Taoism), Buddhism, others[5]
Related ethnic groups
Han Chinese, Chinese people in Madagascar, Sino-Réunionnais, Sino-Seychellois, Chinese South Africans[6]

Mauritians of Chinese origin, also known as Sino-Mauritians or Chinese Mauritians, are Mauritians who trace their ethnic ancestry to China.

Migration history[edit]

Like members of other communities on the island, some of the earliest Chinese in Mauritius arrived involuntarily, having been "shanghaied" from Sumatra in the 1740s to work in Mauritius in a scheme hatched by the French admiral Charles Hector, comte d'Estaing; however, they soon went on strike to protest their kidnapping. Luckily for them, their refusal to work was not met by deadly force, but merely deportation back to Sumatra.[7] In the 1780s, thousands of voluntary migrants set sail for Port Louis from Guangzhou on board British, French, and Danish ships; they found employment as blacksmiths, carpenters, cobblers, and tailors, and quickly formed a small Chinatown, the camp des Chinois, in Port Louis. Even after the British takeover of the island, migration continued unabated.[8] Between 1840 and 1843 alone, 3,000 Chinese contract workers arrived on the island; by mid-century, the total resident Chinese population reached five thousand.[9]

The earliest migrants were largely Cantonese-speaking; but, later, Hakka-speakers from Meixian, further east in Canton (modern day Guangdong), came to dominate numerically; as in other overseas Chinese communities, rivalry between Hakka and Cantonese became a common feature of the society. [10] By the 1860s, shops run by Sino-Mauritians could be found all over the island. Some members of the colonial government thought that further migration should be prohibited, but Governor John Pope Hennessy, recognising the role that Sino-Mauritians played in providing cheap goods to less well-off members of society, resisted the restrictionists' lobbying.[10] I

In the late 19th to early 20th century, Chinese men in Mauritius married Indian women due to both a lack of Chinese women and the higher numbers of Indian women on the island.[11][12] [13] The 1921 census in Mauritius counted that Indian women there had a total of 148 children fathered by Chinese men.[14][15][16] These Chinese were mostly traders.[17]

During the 1880s, despite the continuous influx of immigrants, Mauritius' Chinese population declined; Chinese traders, legally unable to purchase land in Mauritius, instead brought their relatives from China over to Mauritius. After training them for a few years to give them a handle on the business and to introduce them to life in a Western-ruled colonial society, the traders sent those relatives on their way, with capital and letters of introduction, to establish businesses in neighbouring countries. For example, between 1888 and 1898, nearly 1,800 Chinese departed from Port Louis with ports on the African mainland—largely Port Elizabeth and Durban—as their destinations.[18] By 1901, the Sino-Mauritian population had shrunk to 3,515 individuals, among them 2,585 being business owners.[9] Until the 1930s, Chinese migrants continued to arrive in Port Louis, but with the strain on the local economy's ability to absorb them, many found that Mauritius would only be their first stop; they went on to the African mainland (especially South Africa), as well as to Madagascar, Réunion, and Seychelles.[4] After World War II, immigration from China largely came to an end.[19]

However, Sino-Mauritians continued to maintain the personal ethnic networks connecting them to relatives in greater China, which would play an important role in the 1980s, with the rise of the export-processing zones. Foreign investors from Hong Kong and Taiwan, and the factories they built in the EPZs, helped Mauritius to become the third-largest exporter of woollen knitwear in the world.[20] Along with the investors came a new influx of Chinese migrant workers, who signed on for three-year stints in the garment factories.[21]

Demographics, distribution, and employment[edit]

Today, most Sino-Mauritians are businesspeople, with a "virtual monopoly" on retail trade.[22] After the Franco-Mauritian population, they form the second-wealthiest group on the island.[23] They own restaurants, retail and wholesale shops, and import-and-export firms. Chinese restaurants have greatly influenced Mauritian culture, and Chinese food is consumed all over the island by people of all backgrounds. Fried noodles is one of the most popular dishes. Mauritians from all ethnic origin and background also enjoy the various vegetables and meat balls (Niouk Yen, Sow Mai, Van Yen, Fee Yen) which originate from the Hakka cuisine in Meixian.

In a 2001 Business Magazine survey, 10 of the 50 largest companies were Chinese owned.[24]


Most Sino-Mauritian youth are at least trilingual: they use Mauritian Creole and French orally, while English—the language of administration and education—remains primarily a written language.[3][25] In the 1990 census, roughly one-third of Sino-Mauritians stated Mauritian Creole as both their ancestral and currently spoken language. The other two-thirds indicated some form of Chinese as their ancestral language[26] although only fewer than one-quarter of census respondents who identified Chinese as their ancestral language also indicated it as the language spoken in the home.[27] Few Sino-Mauritian youth speak Chinese; those who do use it primarily for communication with elderly relatives, especially those who did not attend school and thus had little exposure to English or French.[28] None use it to communicate with their siblings or cousins.[29] Among those members of the community who do continue to speak Hakka, wide divergence with Meixian Hakka has developed in terms of vocabulary and phonology.[30]

Chinese schools[edit]

Two Chinese-medium middle schools were established in the first half of the 20th century. The Chinese Middle School (华文学校, later called 新华中学 and then 新华学校) was established on 10 November 1912 as a primary school; in 1941, they expanded to include a lower middle school. Their student population exceeded 1,000.[31] The Chung-Hwa Middle School (中华中学), established by Kuomintang cadres on 20 October 1941, grew to enroll 500 students, but by the end of the 1950s, that had shrunk to just 300; they stopped classes entirely in the 1960s, although their alumni association remains prominent in the Sino-Mauritian community.[32] The Chinese Middle School also faced the problem of falling student numbers, as more Sino-Mauritians sent their children to mainstream schools, and in the 1970s stopped their weekday classes, retaining only a weekend section. However, their student numbers began to experience some revival in the mid-1980s; in the 1990s, they established a weekday pre-school section. Most of their teachers are local Sino-Mauritians, though some are expatriates from mainland China.[31]


Four Chinese-language newspapers continued to be published in Mauritius as of 2014.[33] A monthly news magazine also began publication in 2005.[34] The newspapers are printed in Port Louis, but not widely distributed outside the city.[26]

Chinese Commercial Gazette[edit]

The Chinese Commercial Gazette (华侨商报) was once the largest and most influential Chinese-language newspaper in Mauritius.[35] It stopped publishing in the 1960s, and merged with the China Times.[35][36]

Chinese Daily News[edit]

The Chinese Daily News (中华日报) is a pro-Kuomintang newspaper. It was founded in 1932.[37] The rivalry between Beijing-friendly and Taipei-friendly newspapers reached its peak in the 1950s; then-editor-in-chief of the Chinese Daily News, Too Wai Man (杜蔚文), even received death threats.[38]

China Times[edit]

The China Times (formerly 中国时报; now 华侨时报) was founded in 1953.[35][39] The editor-in-chief, Long Siong Ah Keng (吴隆祥), was born in 1921 in Mauritius; at age 11, he followed his parents back to their ancestral village in Meixian, Guangdong, where he graduated from high school and went on to Guangxi University. After graduation, he signed on with the Chinese Commercial Gazette and returned to Mauritius. He left Mauritius again in 1952 to work for a Chinese paper in India, but a position at the China Times enticed him back.[35]

Originally a four-page paper, the China Times later expanded to eight full-colour pages.[39]

The Mirror[edit]

The Mirror (镜报) was established in 1976.[33] It is published on a weekly basis every Saturday. At its peak, they had a staff of eight people. Their editor-in-chief, Mr. Ng Kee Siong (黄基松), began his career at the Chinese Commercial Paper in 1942 at the age of 25. After 18 years there, the paper was forced to shut down. He and a team of fellow journalists founded a paper to replace it, the New Chinese Commercial Paper. It was while working there that he met Chu Vee Tow and William Lau, who would help him to establish The Mirror.[36] Another editor and journalist, Mr. Poon Yune Lioung POON YOW TSE (冯云龙), who studied foreign languages at Tsinghua University, was also solicited to lend a hand. [33] The paper is printed by Dawn Printing, which is currently run by Ng Kee Siong's son David.[36]

Most of The Mirror's readers are in their forties or older; it has subscribers not just in Mauritius, but Réunion, Madagascar, Canada, China, Australia and Hong Kong as well.[33][36] The paper's local readership has been boosted slightly by guest workers from China, but the circulation barely exceeded 1,000 copies in 2001.[33] By 2006, that number had fallen to seven hundred.[36] In 2010, The Mirror stopped publication.


Hua Sheng Bao (华声报), also referred to as Sinonews, was founded in 2005. With regards to its editorial line, it is a supporter of Chinese reunification. It began as a daily newspaper solely in Chinese, but then changed to an eight-page format, including one page each of English and French news. It mostly prints Xinhua newswire reports, with the last page devoted to local news.[34]



Most Sino-Mauritians use the full Chinese name of the male head of family or a respected ancestor who led the family as their legal surname, the result of an administrative procedure that had been widely used in British India (e.g. Muthu s/o Lingham) and which was extended to Mauritius, including not just Indo-Mauritians but Sino-Mauritians in its ambit.[citation needed] This practice is not unique to Mauritius; some Chinese in the Philippines and Chinese migrants in the early Soviet Union also adopted such surnames.[40]


The majority of the Sino-Mauritians are Catholics, a result of conversions during the colonial era.[41] Other Sino-Mauritians are Protestant, Buddhist or Taoist; typically, some syncretism occurs among the latter two, incorporating elements of Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism and traditional ancestor worship. Sino-Mauritian Christians, especially members of the older generations, sometimes retain certain traditions from Buddhism.[42]

Notable Mauritians of Chinese origin[edit]

  • Moilin Jean Ah-Chuen 朱梅麟: First Chinese Cabinet Minister, 1967–1976; First Chinese Member, Legislative Council, 1949
  • Joseph Tsang Mang Kin 曾繁兴: Cabinet Minister, 1995–2000; as a poet, Tsang has written a number of poems on the Hakka culture
Government Officials
  • Gaétan Siew: Architect. Past Secretary General of African Union of Architects. Past President of International Union of Architects
  • Lawrence Wong: CEO of LaTrobe. President of Mauritius Cycling Federation[43]
  • Kevin Cheung: National swimmer
  • Karen Foo Kune: National badminton player; Sportswoman of the Year, 2004 and 2009; Ranked number one badminton player in the African continent on several occasions
  • Kate Foo Kune: African Badminton Champion 2018, 2017, ...
  • Elodie Li Yuk Lo: National beach volleyball player
  • Lim Kee Chong: International football referee
  • Patrick Chan: Tennis champion.

See also[edit]



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  2. ^ "Mauritius". Retrieved 17 August 2018.
  3. ^ a b Leclerc 2007
  4. ^ a b Pan 1994, p. 62
  5. ^ Eriksen 1998, p. 82
  6. ^ Pan 2004, p. 62
  7. ^ Pan 1994, p. 28
  8. ^ Pan 1994, p. 29
  9. ^ a b Song 2001, p. 39
  10. ^ a b Pan 1994, p. 61
  11. ^ Marina Carter, James Ng Foong Kwong (2009). Abacus and Mah Jong: Sino-Mauritian Settlement and Economic Consolidation. Volume 1 of European expansion and indigenous response, v. 1. BRILL. p. 199. ISBN 978-9004175723. Retrieved 17 May 2014.
  12. ^ Paul Younger Professor Emeritus of Religious Studies McMaster University (2009). New Homelands : Hindu Communities in Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad, South Africa, Fiji, and East Africa: Hindu Communities in Mauritius, Guyana, Trinidad, South Africa, Fiji, and East Africa. Oxford University Press. p. 33. ISBN 978-0199741922.
  13. ^ |url= |archiveurl= |archivedate=18 May 2014 |page=15 |accessdate=17 May 2014 |url-status=unfit }}
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