Campaign seeks UK government apology over forced repatriation of thousands of Chinese seafarers

Liverpool: A petition seeking an acknowledgement and apology from the UK’s Home Office for the 1946 forced repatriation of thousands of Chinese seamen based in Liverpool is gaining significant traction online.

The campaign was launched by Peter Foo, whose own father (pictured with his mother) was forced to leave the UK after the end of the Second World War.

Thousands of Chinese seamen made up the numbers to crew the British merchant ships during the Second World War, the majority manning cargo ships on the renowned and dangerous North Atlantic run.

In July 1946 the police under the supervision of UK government agents indiscriminately rounded up thousands of these Chinese seamen and forcibly deported them from the UK to Asia.

Due to the civil war in China at the time, the majority of these seamen were not repatriated but were put ashore in foreign countries thousands of miles from their homes.

The families of these seamen were totally ignorant of these events thinking that the men were killed at sea or they had been deserted and left abandoned with no form of income.

“These men served with valour in both the merchant navy and the Royal Navy during the Second World War, many of them on the Atlantic convoys,” Foo told Splash.

“Many of the sons and daughters of the men who were deported still live in Liverpool and want to raise awareness of this terrible injustice and seek an apology from the Home Office which will hopefully bring closure for them,” he added.

Commenting on the campaign, Splash columnist and avid maritime historian Andrew Craig-Bennett noted that for much of the war, Chinese seamen were paid only pre-war wages, which were not enough for them to live on in a seamanship boarding house between ships in the UK.

“It did not seem to occur to anyone that these men were effectively slaves – unable to go home or to contact their families and half starved. Unsurprisingly many deserted in the USA in order to stay alive,” Craig-Bennett commented.

Details of the campaign can be accessed here.


Sam Chambers

Starting out with the Informa Group in 2000 in Hong Kong, Sam Chambers became editor of Maritime Asia magazine as well as East Asia Editor for the world’s oldest newspaper, Lloyd’s List. In 2005 he pursued a freelance career and wrote for a variety of titles including taking on the role of Asia Editor at Seatrade magazine and China correspondent for Supply Chain Asia. His work has also appeared in The Economist, The New York Times, The Sunday Times and The International Herald Tribune.
Back to top button