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Hong Kong has a long-established South Asian community. The history of their settlement can be dated back to the early 19th century.

In the early 19th century, India and Pakistan were still one country. Being the first British colony in Asia, the British influence on India began when the East India Company started to trade and founded a factory at Surat. Trade and business took people of Indian origin to different treaty ports on the China coast and Hong Kong, which were gradually transformed into colonies. After the business was done, some chose to settle in Hong Kong.


Since 1841 Hong Kong became a British colony, the British colonial government required soldiers and policemen from India to enforce its authority in Hong Kong and professionals to build infrastructures like railways, roads, housings, health-care systems, etc.
 


   

Sir Henry May and staff at Government House
c.1913 Photo courtesy of The Public Records Office of Hong

Indian police and Chinese police constables in the compound of the Central Police Station, Hollywood Road.
c. 1906 Photo courtesy of The Public Records Office of Hong Kong

    
A South Asian policeman standing at Queen’s Road East, Wai Chai c. 1870
Photo courtesy of Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences (inc. Centre of Asian Studies), The University of Hong Kong

In the late 19th century, a number of South Asian were recruited as police officer for the Hong Kong Police Force c. 1900
Photo courtesy of The Public Records Office of Hong Kong
 

        
More than 100 years have passed by, many Indian families have taken root in Hong Kong for more than four generations. Some of them are still enjoying economic and social supremacy from the business they did in the early colonial stage. Examples of renowned establishments the Indian has made in Hong Kong were the founding of the University of Hong Kong, Ruttonjee Hospital and the Star Ferry Company Limited.

For the Nepalese, their history of settlement in Hong Kong was also dated back to the early 19th century.

As British aimed to expand its colonial power, the Gorkha War (1814-1816) was triggered between the Gorkha Kingdom in Nepal and the British East India Company. Though British won the war with their great number of soldiers and advancement of weapons, they also recognized the valiancy and loyalty of Gorkha soilders in British service. The war ended with the signing of Sugauli Treaty in which the Gorkhalis could be recruited to serve under contract in the East India Company's army. This army was then became the well-known British Army's Brigade of Gurkhas.









Pakistan and India were once the same country and had been colonized by British between 1612 and 1947. Hinduism and Islam were the two religions that the majority of Indian inhabitants worshipped. Yet, India was not one country full of like-minded people when it came to worship. In 1947, the unceasing conflicts between followers of these two religions in result transcended the partition from Colonial India into India and Pakistan. The modern state of Pakistan was then established with a Muslim majority.




Over two hundred years, the Gurkhas have been garrisoned worldwide. Other than the combatant role in wars, the Gurkhas were also sent to various British colonies, such as Singapore, India, etc. for enforcing the British colonizer authority. In 1948, the Gurkhas began to garrison in Hong Kong. At peak period, there had been nearly 5,000 gurkhas safe-guarding Hong Kong, which took up 48% of the Hong Kong colonial army.

    
Bicycles on the Hong Kong border
c.1985 Photo courtesy of The Public Records Office of Hong Kong

The Gurkhas regiment at Hong Kong border
Other than the internal security duties, the Gurkhas regiment in Hong Kong would also patrol the border with China in an attempt at preventing the illegal immigration of people to the colony. c. 1870
Photo courtesy of 6th Gurkha Rifles Regimental Association

Since 1948, the Gurkhas began to garrison Hong Kong until 1997. During their service period, only the wife and children of the Gurkhas were allowed to visit and live in the barrack together with the Gurkhas for three years. However, every Gurkhas could only enjoy this privilege once. After three years, the Gurkhas’ families including the children born in Hong Kong should be sent back to Nepal. Therefore, many of the local-born Nepalese children had to leave Hong Kong when they were just one to two years old. It was not until the mid-1990 did the Hong Kong government announced all the Hong-Kong-born Nepalese children have the rights to resident in Hong Kong.


 




Since the mid-19th century, there were many South Asian sailors and solider chose to take roots in Hong Kong. Due to such special colonial background, there were not many restrictions on the South Asian immigration policy. This led to a large wave of South Asian immigration between the 1970s and 1980s when the industrial fields started to flourish and created plenty of job opportunities in Hong Kong. Kwai Chung, where many manufacturing factories were built, became a popular choice for the South Asian to live in.

Young Muslims c. 1968
Photo courtesy of The Public Records Office of Hong

Friday prayers at the mosque c.1968
Photo courtesy of The Public Records Office of Hong Kong

 

A stall selling “hallaled” meat c. 1968
Photo courtesy of The Public Records Office of Hong Kong

Teachers and students of Ellis Kadoorie schools for Indians c.1910s – 1940s
Photo courtesy of Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences (inc. Centre of Asian Studies), The University of Hong Kong