Calcutta-born Liao Hung Hsing is one of the oldest Chinese inhabitants of Mumbai’s once bustling Chinatown. In a 4 ½ minute documentary by New Delhi filmmaker Avijit Pathak, Liao shares the rich yet little-known history of the Chinese community in India.
During the 1800s, thousands of Chinese citizens working for the East India Company moved to India. According to Liao, there are now only five to six Chinese families in Mumbai’s Chinatown. This dramatic drop was largely due to the fallout from the Sino-Indian War which took place in 1962.
The war led to a turbulent period for India’s Chinese residents. Liao remembers the Crime Investigation Department ordering him to leave. They told him, “Liao, you can go everywhere but not Delhi. If you go to Delhi, I will arrest you.”
Nevertheless, Liao does not feel resentment towards India. “I don’t blame the Indian people, they had to do their duty,” he said.
In 1990 Liao visited China for the first time to visit his brother. He found his brother’s residence “much worse” than his Bombay home.
“In Bombay, there were electric trains running. Meanwhile, China’s trains were running on charcoal,” Liao recalls.
His nephew insisted that he remain in China, but Liao responded, “No, India is my hometown. I was born there. I will go back there.”
“I like Bombay, Bombay’s the best. I don’t care how far China has gone,” Liao confidently said. While he adores India, he has not adopted an Indian name. He wears with pride a ring with his Chinese initials engraved.
He regularly visits the local Chinese Taoist Temple where he burned incense in front of “Kwan Tai Kon.” He clarified that Kwan Tai Kon is worshiped not as a god, but as an honorable army general.
Pathak’s documentary stirred great conversation about the Chinese in India. Web users from across the country began to post their experiences with Chinese people in their neighborhoods, with most concluding that the vast majority had left following the Sino-Indian War.
Watch the documentary here:
By Eugenia Xiao