When I first had the idea for this specific blog, information about Girmit and Indo-Fijian history was scarce. Honestly, it still is. However since starting both the blog and Instagram account, I’ve found several valuable resources, who have a wealth of research on specifics about Girmit. I was happy to see that our story was being told, I was also happy that I didn’t have to reference just one book that seemed to be my only source (Tears of Paradise).
I’ve heard from so many of my family members that Chinese food in Fiji is the absolute best. I don’t remember it from when I visited, but it’s something that any Indo-Fijian will tell you. So, I thought to myself, I know how Indians came to Fiji but how did the Chinese arrive?
Currently, the Chinese make up for half of 1% of the Fijian population.
Although there were Chinese laborer’s in other countries, the CSR Company failed to capture the Chinese as indentured servants, although they tried. When the Chinese arrived in Fiji, despite being paid twice as much as Indian laborers, “they rioted when they saw the conditions under which they were expected to live and work.” Many did not return to China, instead staying in Ba, Fiji. (I tried to research more about the fact that the Chinese rioted against indenture in Fiji, but the only place I found this information was the Tears of Paradise book. Specifically, Chapter Five.)
It was not until the 1990s-2000s that another influx of Chinese immigrated to Fiji. This was part of the Fijian government’s plan to boost the economy. After the 1987 coup d’état more than 24,000 Indians fled Fiji, many who were professionals and entrepreneurs, leaving a gap in the economy. The decision to allow Chinese immigrants into Fiji was a financial one, which would bring in 2.5 million dollars into the Fijian economy. It was required that the Chinese (from Hong Kong) pay $30,000 to immigrate and then invest $100,000 in government approved projects.
However, in 2005 the military uncovered several thousand Chinese immigrants that were living in Fiji through a scam (bribery to the office of registrar general). After this surge in 2003, politics around race and corruption swirl around Chinese’ immigration in Fiji.
Aside from controversies, Fiji and China claim a politically friendly relationship with when it comes trade, cooperation at the United Nations level and even between the Prime Minister of Fiji and the President of China. Just recently Chinese Ambassador Qian Bo gave over two hundred thousand dollars to the Fiji Red Cross after Hurricane Yasa. (12/2020)
I like to be transparent in how difficult it is to find information on Fijian history online from the United States. Many take for granted to power of Google however when it comes to Fijian history, it just isn’t that simple.
I hope you learned a little background on Chinese in Fiji. It seems only right that I find some authentic Chinese recipes that I can learn and share here. More on that coming soon…
What’s your favorite authentic Chinese recipe?
Chinese Embassy in Fiji: http://fj.china-embassy.org/eng/tpxw_1/t1841381.htm
Chinese Association in Fiji: https://www.facebook.com/Chinese-Association-of-Fiji-840068462728935/
Chinese in Fiji Wikipedia
Tears in Paradise
When I was younger I would listen to my parents speak to our family and then speak to Indians from India. I heard the switch from what they called “broken-Hindi” to “proper-Hindi.” I never took time to think about why our Hindi was different, or why we called it “broken.” I was just amazed that they could speak one language in different ways.
With Girmit (Indentured Slavery) came communication barriers, not just among the British and the Indians but within the Indian community themselves. Girmitiyas came from all over India, and spoke several different dialects from the Hindi Belt. Of course the need to communicate with one another was crucial as Girmitiyas had to work together, live together and raise their families together.
As children were born during the Girmit era, they began to learn what is called Fiji Hindi. A mix of Hindi, Fijian and English. As the Indian population grew in Fiji, so did the language. It was spoken by Indo-Fijians and even native Fijians. Fiji has three official languages: English, iTaukei (native Fijian) and Hindi.