I remember once being shown two versions of the ‘British’ casualty lists for the Falklands War (1982) – one which had only Western-sounding (or ‘Gurkha’) names upon it – and another which contained around a hundred ethnic Chinese sounding-names. These were not just ‘Chinese’ names – but names sounding like those familiar to our Chinese community existing within the South London area (‘Chan’, ‘Yau’, ‘Lee’ and ‘Chu’, etc) all written in phonetic English – recognising the ‘Cantonese’ (and ‘Hakka’) dialects these men spoke – highlighting the communities these men originated from within the British Colony of Hong Kong and the New Territories! These men had been employed in the Royal Navy and the Merchant Navy on an ‘ad hoc’ basis and fulfilled various ‘manual labour’ roles on these British ships such as ‘Cooks’, ‘Porters’ and ‘Cleaners’, etc, working for a fraction of the pay their non-Chinese colleagues received – and NEVER being allowed to join ‘Unions’ or afforded the status of being formal members of the Royal or Merchant Navies (as that would imply the legal right to equal pay, good working conditions, medical cover and pensions)! These British-Chinese men died when the British ships they were serving upon were sunk by the Argentine Airforce as they approached the Falkland Islands!
This arrangement persisted until Margaret Thatcher took away the ‘British Citizenship’ of Chinese people born in Hong Kong during 1984 – as until then, brave Chinese men like these (and their families) possessed the legal right (as ‘British Citizens’) to resettle in the UK and work for British companies (our Chinese relatives exercised this ‘Right’ and resettled in the UK from 1956 onwards). A racist (media-driven) backlash, however, screamed of ‘hordes’ of Chinese people heading to the UK prior to the Colony of Hong Kong being handed-back to the control of Mainland China in 1997 – a phenomenon which often saw the ‘British-Chinese’ names removed from Falklands War Causality Lists and ensuring they were never added to official ‘War Memorials’!
Indeed, 1997 was the year the film ‘Titanic’ was released. As the Director – James Cameron – is ‘British’, one cannot help but speculate that he was very much aware of this ‘anti-Chinese’ sentiment in the UK, and regardless of whether or not he agreed with it, chose NOT to include this very small but immensely powerful scene in his film! Just as the ‘British-Chinese’ dead were ‘excluded’ from the Falklands War Casuality Lists – so the scene depicting the rescue of a Chinese man was ‘excluded’ from the film ‘Titantic’! The same anti-Chinese racism is in operation regardless of the conditions used to justify it. James Cameron, however, collaborated with film-makers and produced a film in 2020 which fully explores the lives of the ‘eight’ Chinese men who served as Boiler Room Workers on the Titanic (boarding in Southampton), the Six who survived the disaster, the two who perished and the hideous racism they all suffered from the White passengers and the European media once it was discovered they had dared to survive by boarding lifeboats supposedly ‘reserved’ only for ‘White’ people!
The Chinese man (premised upon one of the surviving Titanic Boiler Room Workers recorded as being named ‘Fang Lang’) is discovered floating upon a small door (or wooden panel of some kind) and speaks in the Hong Kong Cantonese dialect (such as that spoken in Bruce Lee’s film ‘Enter the Dragon’) – calling-out three tines ‘Nor Hai Li Dou Ah! (我喺呢度 – Wo Xe Ne Du)’ Or ‘I am over here!’ – with the Cantonese ‘Ah’ particle added to generate emphasis (this ‘Ah’ particle does not possess a corresponding ‘Putonghua’ ideogram). The character sounds exhausted and on the brink of collapse when rescued as his third utterance is barely audible (the Chinese actor – ‘Van Ling’ a Visual Effects Artist – provides a sterling performance). For Chinese people – this raises the heart! To see people of different ethnicities help one another as ‘equals’ is truly inspiring and something we should all aspire to!