Migrants From India and their Relations with British and Chinese Residents

  • Caroline Plüss


This chapter discusses the relations that Indian migrants established with the Chinese and British residents of Hong Kong. Its focus is on the changing economic and social relations between migrants from India on the one hand, and the Chinese numerical majority and the British political majority in Hong Kong on the other hand. The period examined runs from the second half of the nineteenth to the mid-twentieth century. Four groups of migrants from India are investigated: the Parsees, the Muslims, the Sikhs, and the Hindus. The primary sources for this chapter are the results of archive research, material provided by the different associations these migrants founded, interviews with members of the four groups, and written documents provided by interviewees. The communications with interviewees are treated as having been made anonymously. Secondary sources are historical accounts of Hong Kong society, often pertaining to the economic activities in which individuals of Indian origin were engaged.1


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The author would like to thank The Hang Seng Bank Golden Jubilee Education Fund and The Lord Wilson Heritage Trust for their grant contributions to the research on which this chapter is based.

  1. 1.
    Archive research was done in the Hong Kong Collection of the Main Library of the University of Hong Kong, in the archives of the Islamic Union of Hong Kong, and in the private collection of a member of the Parsee community in Hong Kong. Material stemming from sixty-two oral history interviews with individuals of Indian origin in Hong Kong is also used.Google Scholar
  2. 2.
    Frank Welsh, A History of Hong Kong (London: HarperCollins Publishers, 1997), pp. 120–25.Google Scholar
  3. 3.
    Two thousand and seven hundred Indian troops witnessed the raising of the British flag in Hong Kong. Since their stationing was temporary, they are not counted as residents of the territory. See in: Kanwal Narain Vaid, The Overseas Indian Community in Hong Kong (Hong Kong: Centre of Asian Studies, University of Hong Kong, 1972), p. 12.Google Scholar
  4. 4.
    Carl Smith, “The Establishment of the Parsee Community in Hong Kong,” in A Sense of History: Studies in the Social and Urban History of Hong Kong (Hong Kong: Hong Kong Educational Publishing Co., 1995), p. 390.Google Scholar
  5. 5.
    Elizabeth Yuk Yee Sinn, Index to CO 129 (1842–1926) (Hong Kong: Department of History, University of Hong Kong, 1997, computer file), CO 129/292, p. 243.Google Scholar
  6. 8.
    The Gujarati immigrants, migrating to Hong Kong from Gujarat province in north-western India from the middle of the twentieth century onward, were predominantly Hindus, but consisted also of a smaller number of Jains and Parsees. (Jainism is a religion that is perceived to have more similarities with Buddhism than with Hinduism.) (Anonymous communication)Google Scholar
  7. 11.
    Ninian Smart, The World’s Religions: Old Traditions and Modern Transformations (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989), p. 411.Google Scholar
  8. 14.
    I have discussed this point in: Caroline Plüss, “Globalizing Ethnicity with Multi-local Identifications: The Parsee, Indian Muslim and Sephardic Trade Diasporas in Hong Kong” in Ina Baghdiantz McCabe, Gelina Harlaftis, and Ioanna Pepelasis Minoglou, eds., Diaspora Entrepreneurial Networks: Four Centuries of History (Oxford: Berg Publishers, 2005), pp. 245–68.Google Scholar
  9. 15.
    See also in: Caroline Plüss, “Transnational Identities: The Hong Kong Indians,” International Scope Review, vol. 2 (2000), p. 4.Google Scholar
  10. 18.
    Harold W. Ingrams, Hong Kong (London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office, 1952), p. 248.Google Scholar
  11. 22.
    I used the Ruttonjee example in: Plüss, “Globalizing Ethnicity with Multi-local Identifications.” I also mentioned the Ruttonjee family in: Caroline Plüss, “Constructing Globalised Ethnicity: Migrants from India in Hong Kong,” International Sociology, vol. 20, no. 2 (2005) pp. 203–26.Google Scholar
  12. 23.
    Jamshed K. Pavri, “Honourable Dr. Dhunjishah J. H. Ruttonjee O.B.E., C.B.E., J.P. of Hong Kong,” (n.d., photocopy), p. 1.Google Scholar
  13. 28.
    This association of the Parsees in Hong Kong is called the Incorporated Trustees of the Zoroastrian Charity Funds of Hongkong, Canton, and Macau.Google Scholar
  14. 29.
    Caroline Plüss, “Hong Kong’s Muslim Organisations: Creating and Expressing Collective Identities,” China Perspectives, no. 29 (May–June 2000), p. 20.Google Scholar
  15. 30.
    Incorporated Trustees of the Islamic Community Fund of Hong Kong, ITICFHK (Hong Kong: By the author, 1985), p. 8.Google Scholar
  16. 31.
    Plüss, “Hong Kong’s Muslim Organisations,” p. 23. I also mentioned this example in: Plüss, “Globalizing Ethnicity with Multi-local Identifications.”Google Scholar
  17. 32.
    Joel Toraval, “Zhangli yu qidao anpai: Xianggang musilin jijin zonghui lishi gaimao” (Managing Death and Prayer: A Historical Sketch of the Board of Trustees of the Hong Kong Muslim Community), Guangdong minzu yanjiu luncong (The Collection of Studies of Ethnic Groups of Guangdong), vol. 5 (1991), p. 225.Google Scholar
  18. 33.
    Most of these marriages were with Chinese women who were not Muslims, but who took up the religion before they married. See in: Anita Weiss, “South Asian Muslims in Hong Kong: Creation of a ‘Local Boy’ Identity,” Modern Asian Studies, vol. 25, no. 3 (1991); and Plüss, “Globalizing Ethnicity with Multi-local Identifications.”Google Scholar
  19. 34.
    Tang Kaijian and Tian Yingxia, “Xianggang yisilanjiao de qiyuan yu fazhan” (The Origins and Development of Hong Kong’s Islam), Dongnanya yanjiu (Southeast Asian Studies), vol. 6 (1995), p. 51.Google Scholar
  20. 36.
    Sikhs follow the religion of Sikhism, which was established in the sixteenth century. Smart, The World’s Religions, p. 98.Google Scholar
  21. 37.
    Alan G. Harfield, British and Indian Armies on the China Coast, 1785–1985 (London: A. & J. Partnership, 1990), p. 185.Google Scholar
  22. 40.
    China Mail, May 28, 1892. Quoted in: Harfield, British and Indian Armies on the China Coast, p. 187.Google Scholar
  23. 42.
    Kevin Sinclair, Asia’s Finest: An Illustrated Account of the Royal Hong Kong Police (Hong Kong: Unicorn Books, 1983), p. 30.Google Scholar
  24. 59.
    Kevin Sinclair, Royal Hong Kong Police: 150th Anniversary Commemorative Publication, 1844–1994 (Hong Kong: Police Public Relations Branch, Royal Hong Kong Police Force, 1994), p. 9.Google Scholar

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© Cindy Yik-yi Chu 2005

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  • Caroline Plüss

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