|The Gold Rush of 1849. When gold was discovered at Sutter’s Mill in 1848, the lure of economic prosperity abroad encouraged tens of thousands of Chinese to emigrate to the U.S. It was the discovery of gold in 1851 which attracted Chinese immigration to Victoria on a large scale. Ships sailed to Australia from Hong Kong with their cargo of men who had come in search of the “New Gold Mountain”.
Unlike some of our neighbouring Chinatowns, there was no gold discovered in Britain. Chinese people first settled in Britain around 1885. They were mainly seamen working on steamships. By 1900, there were about 400 Chinese living in Britain. Many Chinese who live in Britain today came in the 1960s from rural Hong Kong and set up ‘Takeaway’ food shops and other related business, while Chinese from Malaysia and Singapore came for education and university degrees. Others came from China, Taiwan and Vietnam. The 1991 Census put the number of Chinese in Britain at 156,938. In the mid-1990s, there was another influx of Hong Kong Chinese immigrants who were granted British passports as a result of the ‘hand-over’ of Hong Kong to mainland China (July 1997). These new immigrants are relatively better educated and have better professional skills.
Chinatowns are well established in London, Birmingham, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle-upon-Tyne etc, and there are noticeable Chinese communities in other major cities, e.g. Edinburgh, Belfast, Cardiff, Bristol, Sheffield, Cambridge, Milton Keynes etc.
Refugees and asylum seekers from China are some of the emerging issues affecting the Chinese community in Britain today.
Chinatowns are now established in many major cities around the world. It was said that the bigger the Chinatown the more it reflects the success of the City.
For most Chinese Immigrants, locals and tourists Chinatown was and still is part of a great heritage and cultural identification, where a lot of locals and tourists alike come for Chinese groceries, Chinese food and Chinese publications or just to soak up the hustle and bustle of everyday life in these great cultural towns.