P.M. praises Chinese migrants’ work ethic

The Prime Minister has a message of gratitude for the descendants of the Chinese indentured labourers, honoured yesterday in a new exhibition at the Museum of Samoa.

For the next three months at least, photos, stories and even news and legislation telling the story of nearly 4000 Chinese men that moved to Samoa to work are on display in a brightly painted red room at the museum.

Prime Minister Tuilaepa Dr Sa’ilele Malielegaoi said those labourers, who worked under gruelling and often times abusive conditions, taught Samoan people a lot.

“Their work ethics were such that our people learned a lot from them,” he said.

“They were hard workers and the greatest joy to me as leader of this country is that their children and grandchildren and great grandchildren turn out to be leaders in industries here, in business.

“In other words, they produced heirs that emulated the excellent example that were set by their grandparents and their parents.

The curator of the exhibition, Ronna Lee, is one of those heirs. She is the granddaughter to Asamu Sing Chao Lei Sam, who was brought to Samoa along with hundreds of others in the early 20th century to work German plantations.

 Ms Lee spent nearly 20 years unpacking the history of how her ancestor lived his first few years here in Samoa.

“Indentured labour was just the way the British reinvented slavery,” she said.

Three year contracts to work nine hour days, six days a week and risking being flogged, as well as being barred by law to form relationships with Samoan people are just some of the ways these labourers were mistreated.

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