Cape Malays…

and their Heritage

Forced Tionghua Migration from Batavia

Posted by tahirfarrath on July 6, 2012

Written by Ivan Taniputera | Dada on September 6, 2011 . Posted in Chinese – Diaspora

Hundreds of Tionghua people were shipped from Batavia to Cape Town during the VOC period. But their status is exile, not as a settler who had freedom. Their presence was expected by the authorities in Cape Town to address the needs of human resources. [1]

The arrival of ships carrying Tionghua to Cape Town the first time this has happened in the year 1654. [2] On one hand they must be supervised, on the other hand their labor is needed. Apart from Tionghua, Javanese and other ethnic groups from the Netherlands East Indies [Indonesia], forced migration flows are also coming from the Sri Lanka and India as well as Dutch-Formosa [Taiwan] before VOC expelled by Koxinga.

James Armstrong has traced that Tionghua transport to Cape Town, mostly from Batavia. Brought Tionghua considered a criminal offender or illegal residents. Impact, Tionghua forced migration to South Africa is expanding its range of diaspora. [3]

Ancestors of Tionghua who was born in South Africa stems from the flow of the diaspora in a small but significant amounts since the 1870s. Tionghua in South Africa had experienced racist and discriminatory policy. [4] According to the census of 1891, there were 413 Tionghua in South Africa. In 1904, the number increased fivefold Tionghua, 2556 inhabitants. This number is still small compared to total population in South Africa.

In 1907 because of the black gold miners did a lot of resistance, the South African government to bring 63 000 mine workers Tionghua to it. They were brought in and hired as staff are not trained or semi trained with lower salaries. [5]

In the Apartheid period, population growth remains slow but steady Tionghua. Post-World War II, the doors of immigration in South Africa covered by the policy of Immigrants Regulation Amendment Act 43 [1953]. This is just one of many cases Tionghua entry barriers to South Africa between the years 1953-1970.

After the 1970s, Taiwan and South Africa’s relations strengthened, and the Taiwan industrialists go to South Africa to perform a variety of investments. This marks a new wave of immigration to South Africa Tionghua. South African government is pushing to ease the flow of migrants from Taiwan and Hong Kong. In the period 1980-1990, the number of industrialist continues to grow.

Since the 1990s, a second wave of migration began Tionghua Taiwan and Hong Kong. They opened the company, import-export firm, restaurant, various types of small businesses, even as a student. Newcomers lived in the big cities in South Africa. They see the situation first, if they remain profitable to stay and if they deteriorate the business environment can be moved at any time as it did in the late 1990s, concurrent with the establishment of diplomatic relations between South Africa and the People’s Republic of China in the year 1998.

Tionghua population in South Africa is the largest among the other African countries. Their population is estimated to amount to 250 thousand -300 thousand inhabitants. They come from various waves of diaspora as well as a variety of backgrounds from Taiwan industrialists, the educated in Shanghai and Beijing to poor immigrants in rural Fujian.


A. Kerry Ward, “Networks of Empire: Forced Migration in the Dutch East India Company”

2. Leonard Thompson, “A History of South Africa”,

3. Yoon Jung Park, “Recent Chinese Migration to South Africa, New Intersections of Race, Class and Ethnicity”,

[1] Kerry Ward, p145

[2] Kerry Ward, p144

[3] Kerry Ward, p152

[4] Yap and Man, 1996

[5] Leonard Thompson, “A History of South Africa”, p144-5


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