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Book source: (1) Suralco Magazine, 1996 Jaargang/ volume 20 nr 2. (2) Chinese Kontraktanten in Suriname, Humphrey E. Lamur & Jean A. Vriezen, OSO, jaargang 4, Nummer 2, Dec 1985. (3) Chinese Kontraktarbeiders in Suriname in de 19e Eeuw, Joke Ankum-Houwink, OSO, Jaargang 4, Nummer 2, Dec 1985.

Subject: [History] Chinese Contract Workers [1853-1874]


When slavery was coming to an end, plantation owners and the colonial government were making plans in 1853 to bring in contract workers to Suriname. The first group of 18 Chinese came from Java and were recruited and contracted by the government for the government's plantation 'Catharina Sophia' in Saramacca. Three died en route to Suriname and the remaining 14 were used as sugar boilers and field workers. At the end of their 3 years contract eight returned to Java and three remained at the urging of the officials to work as interpreters. Four Chinese had died in Suriname. These original 14 Chinese arrived on October 20, 1853. Since 1853 more then 2500 Chinese were brought to Suriname primarily from mainland China.

1858 --487 contract workers came through Macao. 1865 --286 (after 1865 all came through Hong Kong) 1866 --807 1868 --517 1869 -- 405 The first group of about 500 came from Canton, through Macao. They were also recruited by the government and 325 were destined to go to different plantations and the remainder (175) were employed by the government to work at the plantation or dig a canal in Coronie. The Chinese contract was 5 years, with free meals, return ticket, a fixed monthly wage, housing, meals, medical treatment, two pair of clothes a year.
The plantation owners could submit a bid for a minimum of 25 workers for fl 300 a person. Thus only very few bids were submitted. The plantation owners suggested that the price was too high and they settled for fl 150. Furthermore, the contract was revised:
-payment was based on ech job (piecemeal)performed and the quality of the work and not on monthly wages. -Meals and clothes were the responsibilty of the worker.

The governor-general approved the changes and the Chinese did not know of the changes until they arrived. 1869 was the last year the Chinese were brought from China to Suriname as Hong Kong, the port of embarkation and clearing station was closed. The government went back to Java and from 1873-1874 a small group of 100 Chinese were shipped from Java with the help of the NHM (Dutch Trading Company) for the plantation Resolution on the Commewijne. No more Chinese contract workers arrived after 1874.

After 1874 no more Chinese contract workers came to Suriname. Not only were the ports of Macao and Hong Kong closed there were other reasons why the plantation owners and government abandonned bringing in more Chinese.
-Recruiting and transportation costs were high and paid by the plantation owners. -Very rarely contracts were extended -Those who stayed opened a shop for which the plantation owners had no use. -As there came very few Chinese women to Suriname most Chinese males left Suriname. Although the Dutch officials had demanded that each shipment of Chinese consisted of 20-25% females this goal was never reached. -permanent residency was not encouraged. In addition during 1863-1865, the sugar export declined by 50% and many plantations were abandonned. Thus because of this factor and the high cost of Chinese contract workers one began to look at British India around 1872.
Those few Chinese who stayed in Suriname and worked at the plantations spent their last days in a home such as 's Landsgrond Boniface. In 1880 a club Kong Ngie Tong was opened and three years later senior Chinese citizens could stay there also. Many Chinese descendants from immigrants can be found in professions such as physician, lawyer, pilots and artists.


Met dank aan Albert Buys

Met dank aan Albert Buys

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