The Eighth Chinese Merchant and the Disappeared Seamen’s Cafe

Lee, Gregory B. The eighth Chinese merchant and the disappeared seamen’s cafe. LeeHacienda Editions [iBook], 2015. 62 p.

1-5a5a76b6b7Because of my own experience of being brought up until the age of seven by a Chinese immigrant, I have always found it difficult to separate out the personal from the so-called ‘objective’ in my academic pursuit of ‘Chinese studies.’ The reality, as this text demonstrates, is that the bigger stories of peoples and nations always overshadow and invade the smaller, left-out and often untold stories of ordinary people who, notwithstanding, constitute the everyday creative energy of our societies.
What brought me to write the present piece was the revelation a decade ago of the forced repatriation of Chinese seamen from the United Kingdom in 1946; a combined operation of the then Labour government, the Home Office, the special branch of the police, the local police force and a shipping company. The seamen had served in Britian’s Merchant Navy, mainly on Holt’s prestigious Blue Funnel Line. Many of the 1946 deportees were married to local women in Liverpool and had children and property there. All were either tricked or coerced manu militari into boarding especially equipped cargo ships to be sent back to a China then caught in the turmoil of civil war.
But this is also the story of my grandfather who ran a large cafe-cum-gambling house much frequented by those Chinese sailors. It is also the story of the sudden decline of that cafe and of the small boy who observed the demise and demolition of the old Edwardian house it occupied, and only grasped the how and why of what had happened 50 years after the events took place.

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Site personnel de Gregory B. Lee

Monique Abud

Centre d'études sur la Chine moderne et contemporaine, EHESS, Paris, France

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