A British betrayal: the secret deportations of Chinese merchant sailors | News

Liverpool is home to the longest-established Chinese community in Europe having built sea links with Shanghai from the 19th century onwards. A thriving Chinatown is among the city’s present day inheritance of the era. But there is a darker side to the story of Liverpool’s Chinese community.

During the second world war, Chinese men served alongside their British comrades in merchant vessels that kept supply lines of food and other essentials flowing into the UK. It was incredibly dangerous work as the enormous cargo ships were ready targets for German U-boats and many of the seamen perished. After the war, many of the Chinese sailors settled in Liverpool with some starting families. But from 1946 onwards many started to go missing from the city.

On a day that Britain remembers the sacrifices of its war dead, writer Dan Hancox tells Nosheen Iqbal how he began investigating what had happened to the missing Chinese sailors and found a story of betrayal that is largely unknown in the UK. In the months following the war, the Home Office carried out thousands of secret deportations of Chinese seamen leaving their wives and children to believe they had been abandoned.

Yvonne Foley tells Nosheen she was 11 when she was told the truth about her Chinese heritage and has been trying ever since to find out what happened to her biological father she has never known.

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Photograph: Christopher Thomond/The Guardian

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