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Sino-Mauritians, also referred to as Chinese Mauritians or Mauritian Chinese, are overseas Chinese who reside in Mauritiusmarker. They form about 3% of the local population.

Migration history

Like members of other communities on the island, some of the earliest Chinese in Mauritius arrived involuntarily, having been "shanghaied" from Sumatramarker 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. In the 1780s, thousands of voluntary migrants set sail for Port Louis from Guangzhoumarker 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. 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.

The earliest migrants were largely Cantonese-speaking, but later, Hakka-speakers from Meixianmarker, further east in Guangdongmarker, came to dominate numerically; as in other overseas Chinese communities, rivalry between Hakka and Cantonese became a common feature of the society.
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.

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 Elizabethmarker and Durbanmarker—as their destinations. By 1901, the Sino-Mauritian population had shrunk to 3,515 individuals, among them 2,585 being business owners. Until the 1930s, Chinese migrants continued to arrive in Port Louismarker, 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 Madagascarmarker, Réunionmarker, and Seychellesmarker. After World War II, immigration from China largely came to an end.

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. Along with the investors came a new influx of Chinese migrant workers, who signed on for three-year stints in the garment factories.

Demographics, distribution, and employment

Today, most Sino-Mauritians are businesspeople, with a "virtual monopoly" on retail trade. After the Franco-Mauritian population, they form the second-wealthiest group on the island. 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.


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. In the 1990 census, roughly one-third of Sino-Mauritians stated Mauritian Creole as both their ancestral language and currently spoken language. The other two-thirds indicated some form of Chinese as their ancestral language 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. 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. None use it to communicate with their siblings or cousins. 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.

Chinese schools

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. 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. 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. , the Chinese Middle School enrolled 200 students and employed 36 teachers, and looked forward to reviving full-time classes in the near future.


Three Chinese-language newspapers continued to be published in Mauritius . A monthly newsmagazine also began publication in 2005. The newspapers are printed in Port Louis, but not widely distributed outside the city.

Chinese Commercial Paper

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

Chinese Daily News

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

China Times

The China Times (formerly 中国时报; now 华侨时报) was founded in 1953.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 Meixianmarker, Guangdongmarker, where he graduated high school and went on to Guangxi's Guangxi University. After graduation, he signed on with the Chinese Commercial Paper 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.

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

The Mirror

The Mirror (镜报) was established in 1976. It is published on a weekly basis every Saturday. They have a staff of eight people. Their editor-in-chief, 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. Another editor, Feng Yunlong (冯云龙), majored in French at Beijing's Tsinghua Universitymarker, graduating in 1952. The paper is printed by Down Printing, which is owned by Ng's son David.

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. The paper's local readership has been boosted slightly by guest workers from China, but in 2001, barely exceeded one thousand copies. By 2006, that number had fallen to seven hundred.

Hua Sheng Bao

Hua Sheng Bao (华声报), also referred to as Voice of China, 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 format to become a monthly eight-page newspaper, including one page each of English and French news. It mostly prints Xinhuamarker wire reports, with one page devoted to local news. It employs about twelve staff members on a part-time basis.



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. This practise is not unique to Mauritius; some Chinese in the Philippines and Chinese migrants in the early Soviet Union also adopted such surnames.


The majority of the Sino-Mauritians are Catholics, a result of conversions during the colonial era. 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

See also



  1. Mauritius: A New Balance of Nature Islands


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