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Tuesday, August 31, 2010

What's the connection between Singapore, Guyana (South America) and a slave-trader?

A group, led by a charismatic Chinese missionary from Singapore named O Tye Kim, not only converted many of the Chinese in Guyana, also founded a river settlement called Hopetown in 1865.  O was once a government surveyor in Singapore but supposedly found god after witnessing a dramatic sunset during which the skies was transformed into deep blood red and the sun obscured by strange clouds.  After achieving success converting some Chinese in Singapore, he sailed to London alone without his Singapore-born wife and three children, and then convinced the Church Missionary Society to finance his plans to convert Chinese immigrants in faraway Guyana.

 

Led by O, the settlement of Hopetown prospered initially as an agricultural settlement of free Chinese, then emerged as a charcoal manufacturing centre.  O, however, was abruptly forced to resign from the spiritual and political leadership of the settlement when he was found having an affair with a local African woman who had become pregnant with his child.  There were also accusations of embezzlement and extortion, as well as involvement in dodgy freewheeling deals Hopetown had by then acquired a reputation for.  He fled to a remote part of Guyana and was then reported to have emigrated to Trinidad around 1867. 

 

Interestingly, O, now known as “Tye Kim Orr”, emerged again in Civil War-ravaged Louisiana the same year, together with a group of Cuban Chinese.  Described variously as “the priest” and in as a “Chinese gentleman whose enunciation was very clearly resembling very much that of an educated Spaniard”, O became a respectable school teacher, and then went on a speaking circuit around the American South about the merits of employing Chinese coolies to replace the recently freed former Black slaves (whom O described as inherently lazy and undisciplined).  It’s amazing to see how a god-faring Singapore Chinese missionary went to South America to found an idealistic community in the deep jungles but eventually drifted to Cuba and then the American South to become a dodgy importer of Chinese slave-coolie labour.

 

Posted via email from Nomadic Republic2

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