Chinese in Samoa

Chinese in Samoa
Chinese Samoan
Regions with significant populations
 Samoa 150 (2003)[1]
 American Samoa 100 (2003)[1]

English, Samoan,[2] Cantonese


Congregationalist, Roman Catholic[3]

Related ethnic groups

Samoans, Chinese

The majority of Chinese nationals currently residing in Samoa are expatriate businessmen Samoa,[4] and there are at least 3000 people in Samoa who are of mixed Samoan and Chinese descent,[5] although they are classified as ethnic Samoans in official census.[6] Around the world, about 25% of all Samoans claim Chinese ancestry. Nearly all Chinese nationals in Samoa reside within the Apia municipal area; neighbouring American Samoa,[7] also has a small population of Chinese expatriates.[8]



Historical records of Chinese settlement dates back to at least the 1870s. Two Chinese sailors under the command of Bully Hayes were based there for two years, and one of them settled down in 1876 and married a Samoan wife. A few Chinese traders also settled in Samoa and raised local families, and maintained close ties with Samoa's paramount chief, Malietoa Laupepa. In 1880, Malietoa issued a subsequent ban on people of Chinese descent from settling in Samoa.[9] Four years after Western Samoa came under German rule in 1899, the colonial governor Wilhelm Solf lifted Malietoa's ban and shipped in Chinese labourers from 1903 onwards.[10] Chinese coolies reportedly complained of tough working punishments as well as brutal physical punishments which they had to face, and these reports prompted the provincial governor of Canton to stop sending Chinese coolies to the German colonies.[9]

Chinese immigrants were almost entirely men, and most of the labourers took Samoan women as wives and by 1918 offspring of Chinese-Samoan descent were a visible minority, although smaller in terms of population compared to offspring of European (particularly German) and Samoan descent.[11][12] This eventually led to a ban in 1931 that prohibited Chinese men from interacting with Samoan women on all grounds. By the end of World War II only 295 Chinese remained, all of whom had either taken Samoan wives or were unmarried. Many Chinese coolies had since returned to China or remained in Samoa with their families.

In 1994, China provided financial assistance to fund the construction of the government office building in Apia.[13] More recently the Chinese government has funded various other Samoan government constructions. Aeau Peniamina, deputy leader of Samoa Democratic United Party, caused a minor controversy in January 2005 when he remarked that "there are too many Chinese in the country". Joe Keil, the Minister of Tourism, who is of part-Chinese descent, promptly rebutted Peniamina's remarks.[14]

Chinese-Samoans are well-represented in the civil service,[15] and China established diplomatic relations with Samoa in November 1975.[16] Chinese-Samoans are especially well represented in the retail, import-export, and restaurant sectors, notably in Apia.[17]


The majority of the Chinese coolies came from the Guangdong province and generally spoke Cantonese or Hakka as their primary language.[3] However, their descendants in Samoa have adopted Samoan and English as their mother tongues, while Cantonese is still reportedly spoken by a few elderly people.[18]


Many people of Chinese descent in Samoa took their fathers' first names as their surnames, rather than their actual Chinese surnames due to Chinese personal naming convention where the family name is written first and the given name next. Many of these names are of Cantonese origin, as the majority of the Chinese who settled in Samoa came from Taishan and Panyu. Chinese-Samoans often have surnames that start with "Ah," "Po," or "Ho" and common examples of Chinese-Samoan families include Ah Kuoi, Ah Van, Ah Mu (of whom some descendants have adopted the name "Rivers"), Po Ching, Ah You, Ho Ching, Ah Kam, Ah Liki, Ah Sam, Ah Mau, Ah Ching, Ah Fong, and Ah Wong.[19] The retention of the "Ah" prefix is also common in Chinese-Hawaiian surnames, such as Akina, Ahuna, Akee, Akiona and Akaka.[20] The practice stems from the Cantonese word "ah" (阿) used before proper names when respectfully addressing family members - as in "ah-po" (阿婆), maternal grandmother; "ah-gong" (阿公), maternal grandfather; "ah-ma" (阿嫲), paternal grandfather;etc.[21] Likewise, some European-Samoan names begin with "Misi," the Samoan transliteration of "Mister" (Mr.) - as in Misiluki (from "Mr. Luke"), Misimua (from "Mr. Moors"), Misipaulo (from "Mr. Paul"), Misitea (from "Mr. Stair"), and Misikea (from "Mr. Gurr") [22][23]

Notable Samoans of Chinese descent

  • See Category:Samoans of Chinese descent
  • Aumua Ming Leung Wai, Attorney General of Samoa
  • Eveni Tafiti, Multicultural Counselor of Weber State University[24]
  • Verona Lovel Parker, Miss Samoa 1997[25]
  • Tuaimalo Asamu Ah Sam, CEO Ministry of Communication and Information Technology
  • Muagututagata Peter Ah Him, Deputy Prime Minister of Samoa
  • Paul Chan Tung, member of Samoa national rugby union team (sevens)
  • Maualaivao Pat Ah Him, Minister of Health and member of 15th Samoan Parliament
  • Papaliitele Niko Lee Hang, Minister of Communication and Information Technology and member of 15th Samoan Parliament
  • Tapuai Toese Ah Sam, member of 15th Samoan Parliament
  • Ah Mu, first Chinese-Samoan member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints
  • Willie Poching, professional athlete
  • Patrick Ah Van, professional athlete
  • Monty Betham, professional athlete
  • Hans Keil, Ministry of Tourism, Samoa
  • Isaak Ah Mau, professional athlete
  • Leeson Ah Mau, professional athlete


  1. ^ a b Pan (1986), p. 292
  2. ^ 萨摩亚
  3. ^ a b "Dragons in little paradise: Chinese fortunes in Samoa, 1900-1950 - mis". [dead link]
  4. ^ (Chinese) 异国风情:萨摩亚人不愁吃住 树上长大面包
  5. ^ (Chinese) 国家概况
  6. ^ CIA - The World factbook
  7. ^ Pan (2003), p. 303
  8. ^ Chinese residing in American Samoa complain of racist abuse.
  9. ^ a b Crocombe (2007), p. 32
  10. ^ Tu'u'u (2002), p. 462
  11. ^ American Samoa Historical Calendar
  12. ^ . JSTOR 25169313. 
  13. ^ South Pacific Pictures
  14. ^ Samoan MP hits out at growing Chinese influence; Samoa PM accused of racism over anti-Chinese remark
  15. ^ Samoa
  16. ^ Bilateral Relations
  17. ^ Paul Smitz, Susannah Farfor (2006). Lonely Planet–Samoan Islands & Tonga. Lonely Planet Publications. pp. 39. ISBN 1741045231. 
  18. ^ Barmé (2006), p. 698
  19. ^ Leiataua or Lei'ataua: The Polynesian Origin and Migrations; Second Samoan Congregational Church UCC Convocation on Racial Justice–Portland, Oregon
  20. ^
  21. ^,43854
  22. ^
  23. ^
  24. ^ Eveni Tafiti
  25. ^ Miss Samoa 1997: Verona Lovel Tapu Ah Ching - Parker


ISBN 0674252101

  • Tu'u'u, Misilugi Tulifau Tofaeono, History of Samoa Islands: Supremacy & Legacy of the Malietoa, Tuga'ula Publication, 2002, ISBN 0958219915
  • Tom, Nancy Y.W. The Chinese in Western Samoa 1975-1985. Apia: Western Samoan Historical and Cultural Trust

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