Ling He, Feng Lang and Ah Lam were among the survivors
When the Titanic, a British passenger ship equipped with all the latest facilities, sank in the Atlantic Ocean in April 1912, thousands of people on board were falling from the ship into the cold icy water.
Only one lifeboat from the sinking ship returned to search for survivors. Those who came to help saw a young Chinese man clinging to a wooden door in the pitch darkness, shivering from the cold but alive.
It was Feng Lang, one of the six surviving Chinese passengers of the Titanic. The scene of his escape is also shown in the 1997 Hollywood blockbuster film Tie Tank. But the survival of these Chinese travelers was not the end of their troubles.
Within 24 hours of arriving on Ellis Island in New York, he was deported under the controversial Chinese Exploitation Act. The law barred Chinese immigrants from entering the United States.
These six have since disappeared from the pages of Chinese history. However, a recent Chinese documentary, The Six, sheds light on his life 109 years after the accident.
The film deals with topics other than the Titanic, such as racial discrimination and anti-immigrant policy, which echoes the recent mistreatment of Asian-Americans in the United States.
Who were the six Chinese passengers who survived?
They were identified as Li Bing, Feng Lang, Cheng Chip, Ah Lim, Chung Fu and Ling He. It is believed that these people were sailors or sailors and wanted to go to the West Indies.
Arthur Jones, a British filmmaker and director of The Six, says “collectively there is not much information about these people.”
The ill-fated Titanic sank in 1912
The surviving Chinese were on the Titanic’s list of passengers, and are mentioned in newspaper articles about the ship.
But compared to other passengers who survived the crash, according to historians and researchers, who received good coverage in the media, they were humiliated by anti-China sentiment in the West.
A report published in The Brooklyn Daily Eagle after the accident, for example, called them “creatures” who hid under the seats in lifeboats with “the first sign of danger”.
But the documentary’s research shows that this claim was false.
The team made a copy of the lifeboat on the Titanic and found it impossible for the Chinese to hide in it without anyone noticing. “I think we’re seeing the same thing today,” said Arthur Jones. The press is making migrants scapegoats.
According to other media reports, the Chinese wore women’s clothing to give them preference over others.
Eight Chinese passengers on the same ticket, six of them were rescued
Titanic historian Tim Malton says there is no evidence that the surviving Chinese passengers disguised themselves.
“All these stories have been made by the press and the people after this incident,” he told the BBC.
Maltin says the Chinese passengers helped other survivors. Feng Lang, who clung to a wooden door in the sea and swam to the lifeboat, helped get everyone to safety.
What happened to them after the accident?
The six were deported to Cuba after being denied entry to the United States, from where they soon returned to Britain, where a shortage of sailors was caused by the recruitment of British sailors during World War I. ۔
Cheng Chip continued to fall ill after the unfortunate night of the accident and eventually died of pneumonia in 1914. He was buried in an unmarked grave in a London cemetery.
Others worked together in Britain until 1920. At the time, the country was going through a severe financial crisis due to the war and anti-immigrant sentiment was on the rise.
Some of these Chinese had married British women and had children here. But the anti-immigrant policy forced them to leave the country and their loved ones without prior notice.
“It was not his fault,” says Jones. All such families were victims of politics over which they had no control.
Ah Lang was deported to Hong Kong, while Ling himself was put on a Dukhani ship bound for Calcutta.
Li Bing moved to Canada, while Feng Lang sailed between Britain and Hong Kong, eventually acquiring the citizenship of the country that once deported him. That is, the United States.
Feng Lang’s son, Tom Fong, was born in Wisconsin, almost half a century after the sinking of the Titanic.
He did not know his father’s experiences on the “never sinking” ship for years. The makers of the Titanic claimed that the ship would never sink.
“He never talked to anyone about it,” Fong told the BBC. At least he never mentioned me or my mother. “
Feng died in 1985 at the age of 90. Fong learned from a relative 20 years after his father’s death that he had survived a major accident in the history of shipping.
Fong believes his father did not tell him about surviving the Titanic because he wanted to keep the trauma and the humiliation of the accident a secret.
“There was a lot of talk these days about people hiding in boats and disguising women,” he says. There were many such stories circulating.
When the investigation team managed to locate their families, many of them were reluctant to talk about it because of the disgrace their family members felt a century ago.
Fong, who grew up in Wisconsin, has seen many incidents where his father had to fight regularly against racism, once even punching a man in response to Galum Gluch.
Fong says his father was “a gentleman until he realized he was being discriminated against.”
Today, more than a hundred years after the racial hatred that these six Chinese survivors faced, similar racism is still echoing among people of Asian descent in the days of the global epidemic.
In the United States alone, there have been thousands of incidents in the last few months in which people have been spat upon, verbally abused or attacked.
Fong told his family’s story so that people would know the facts about the six Chinese passengers who survived the Titanic crash and compare what happened today with the attitudes of the time. To be able to
“If you don’t know history, it repeats itself,” says Fong.