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Titanic's Chinese survivors endured racism and deportation after disaster, film shows

More than 1,400 people are believed to have died after the luxury passenger ship Titanic capsized in 1912. File Photo courtesy National Archives
More than 1,400 people are believed to have died after the luxury passenger ship Titanic capsized in 1912. File Photo courtesy National Archives

April 16 (UPI) -- Chinese survivors of the RMS Titanic, the luxury passenger ship that capsized after colliding with an iceberg in 1912, struggled with racism and discrimination after the disaster, according to a new documentary that aired in China.

The Six, a film directed by Arthur Jones, tells the story of Lee Bing, Fang Lang, Chang Chip, Ah Lam, Chung Foo and Ling Hee, the BBC reported Friday.

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The Chinese men survived the Titanic sinking -- which led to the death of more than 1,400 people -- but were dehumanized in U.S. newspapers at the time. The Brooklyn Daily Eagle labeled them "creatures" and claimed then men rushed to lifeboats "at the first sign of danger," concealing themselves beneath the seats, the BBC report said.

Documentary producers said the claims -- rumors the Chinese survivors disguised themselves as women -- were also lies.

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The production team reportedly built a replica of a Titanic lifeboat that showed there were no hiding places on the boats.

"I think we see the same thing today. We find immigrants [were] scapegoated by the press," Jones said, according to the BBC.

Titanic historian Tim Maltin said one of the men, Fang Lang, attempted to help other survivors after leaving the ship on a floating door. Fang rowed the lifeboat that rescued him and helped others to safety, Maltin said.

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The Titanic's survivors traveled west to New York, but all six Chinese men were turned away at Ellis Island. The U.S. Chinese Exclusion Act barred Chinese people from entering the country.

The six men traveled back to Britain via Cuba. Some of the men married British women and raised children, but anti-immigration policy in the country forced them to leave and separate from their families, the report said.

Gregory Lee, founding professor of Chinese Studies at University of St. Andrews in Scotland, said in a recent article that the British practice of removing Chinese men from British soil, including sailors, continued from 1946 to 1947.

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Members of the Chinese Seamen's Pool kept Britain supplied with food and weapons during World War II, Lee said.

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