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20 February 2015
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Programme 2 - Chinese Community
Friday, 30 Mar 2001

ARCHIVE - SELB programme code :TI 1336

This episode is now part of our archive. This programme is still available to schools to borrow or purchase from the Audio Visual Recording service at the SELB. Please quote the SELB programme code in your correspondence. See our ordering page for more information.

Background Information
Image of  a Chinese festivalThere are about 8,000 Chinese people in Northern Ireland, the majority of whom are engaged in the catering trade. The Chinese community is the biggest ethnic group here.

Most Chinese people in Britain came from the New Territories, the rural area of Hong Kong. China ceded the island of Hong Kong to Britain as a colony in 1841. The land bordering Hong Kong and China, the New Territories, was later leased to Britain for 99 years. The sovereignty of the whole of Hong Kong was returned to China in 1997.

The economic boom in Britain in the 1950s and '60s gave rise to demands for foreign cuisine. This had led to a rapid growth in the restaurant trade. The first Chinese restaurant opened in Northern Ireland in the early 1960s.

Image of a Chinese chefJob prospects attracted a large number of Chinese people to leave the New Territories for Britain. They came in the pattern of a "chain migration", with the males arriving first to work as cooks or waiters for relatives or friends. When they had settled, their wives and children would come and join them here. Families could be apart for several years before they were reunited. Many of these men had no previous catering experience. The majority had been small farmers or semi-skilled workers in local factories in the New Territories. The initial years could be very lonely and disappointing. Some with high expectations were disillusioned by ending up washing endless piles of dishes in some restaurant kitchen.

The immigration rate in Britain was much checked in the early 1970s, when strict control was enforced. A gradual saturation of the restaurant trade also slowed down the tide of immigration.
China has a distinctly different culture from the West. With a written history dating back 4,000 years, China is rich in literature, legends, art and music. Confucianism had been the backbone of Chinese social values - setting up the hierarchy of family and society, as well as laying down social norms.

Image of a person drawingMost of the older generation of Chinese in Northern Ireland still hold strong traditional attitudes, such as respect for authority and parents. Family ties are also very strong.

People here speak the Cantonese or Hakka dialect, or both. There is only one written language in the form of individual characters.

Generally, Chinese people do not observe one particular religion. They, particularly the older generation, observe a conglomeration of Confucianism, Buddhism, Taoism and other folk-religions of sages and patron saints. Some families here put up an ancestral shrine in the home called "the god shelf". They burn joss-sticks and have daily offerings of fresh fruit in front of the shrine. There are about 600 temples and ancestral halls in the New Territories, but none exists here.
Areas of Need / Difficulties
The language barrier has prevented many from integrating into the local community. Most of the Chinese people here had only a few years of formal education in their often rather basic village schools. Some unfortunate ones had never been to school, and are therefore illiterate in their own language. They find it very difficult to learn a second language in adulthood. Many who have been here for years still speak little or no English. They often encounter communication problems in their contacts with the outside world. Many women who stay at home to look after children face extreme isolation.

As Hong Kong is not a "welfare state", many Chinese here do not know about their rights to free education, the National Health Service, welfare benefits and public housing. This lack of understanding of the UK systems has meant that some have missed out on their entitlement and, at times, some can be easily exploited.

Image of Chinese classrrom situationMost Chinese catering businesses here are open seven days a week from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. The long and unsociable working hours compounds the integration difficulty and limits the choice of leisure pursuits. Childminding facilities for such hours often cause problems for working mothers.

The Chinese Welfare Association was first set up in 1986 by a group of interested Chinese businessmen to try to meet those needs of the Chinese community not generally met by the statutory bodies. They provide a range of services for the Chinese community and are funded by statutory and charitable sources. Services include community development in establishing and facilitating community and women's groups; English classes for adults, welfare and immigration advice, interpreting service, children and youth activities, an elderly project and race-relations and training programmes.
Scope of the Broadcast
The programme will show what it is like to be Chinese and living in Northern Ireland. There will be background information on where and why Chinese people have come here, and we will give some idea of the problems they face and the ways in which they deal with these difficulties.
Citizenship Programmes
Programme 1:
Indian Community :
Programme 2:
Indian Community
Can't find your subject? Visit our archive section where you can find programmes supporting other curricular subjects, including: Geography, History, Citizenship and English.

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