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The 1960s
Census data reports an influx of Chinese migrants to Britain. The Japanese occupation during the 1940s and the Chinese Communist Revolution have created a refugee crisis. Many of these migrants are unemployed agricultural workers. Most travel to Britain via sea. Their journeys may take as long as a month.
Some become entrepreneurs, opening small businesses such as Chinese restaurants and laundrettes. Others take up manual work. The founding of the National Health Service prompts many Chinese women to become nurses. 
The 1970s

By the 1970s, Leicester's Chinese population has more than doubled, leading to an increase in Chinese owned businesses in the area and more women working in nursing.

The trends begun in the 1950s continue into the 1960s, leading to a huge growth in business development. Chinese restaurants and takeaways flourish and continue to thrive throughout subsequent decades.

The 1950s see a marked increase in Leicester’s Chinese population after the 1948 British Nationality Act creates ‘Citizens of the United Kingdom and Colonies’ status, guaranteeing Commonwealth citizens the right to live and work in the UK.

Land reform in Hong Kong brings agricultural workers to Britain, searching for new livelihoods. Other migrants leave Taiwan fearing military intervention from mainland China.
In 1973 the Hong Kong Market crashes, leading people to leave in pursuit of work in more stable economies.
In 1978 China opens up to the world economy. Unprecedented numbers of Chinese enter the global migration stream – academics, professionals and entrepreneurs with money to invest abroad.

Place of Birth (China) 1951 Census

Leicester = 40 Leicestershire = 65 Total = 94

Place of Birth (Hong Kong) 1951 Census

Leicester = 9 Leicestershire = 17 Total = 26

Place of Birth (China) 1961 Census

Leicester = 71

Place of Birth (Hong Kong) 1961 Census

Leicester = 86

Place of Birth (China) 1971 Census

Leicester = 80 Leicestershire = 170 Total = 250

Place of Birth (Hong Kong) 1971 Census

Leicester 215 Leicestershire = 455 Total = 670


The rate of Chinese migration slows in the 1980s as a result of the recession, but the population grows to include the UK-born children of first generation migrants. Surveys show ethnic Chinese account for 0.2% of Leicester's population.

In 1981 changes to the British Nationality Act deprive Hong Kong British passport holders of the right of abode in the United Kingdom, reducing emigration to the UK.
In 1983 Emigration restrictions are relaxed as part of open-door economic policies.
By1984 figures show that around 11,500 business visas have been issued to Chinese citizens.

Place of Birth (China) 1981 Census

Leicester = 61 Leicestershire = 151 Total = 212

Place of Birth (Hong Kong) 1981 Census

Leicester = 280 Leicestershire = 669 Total = 949



Cosmopolitan Arts is a Community Interest Company dedicated to breaking down cultural barriers and bringing people together. Following our successful 2017 Chinese New Year celebrations, we decided to embark on a brand new project delving into the rich history and culture of Leicester’s Chinese community.

We spent an intensive 12 months working in partnership with De Montfort University's Confucius Institute and the many facets of Leicester's Chinese community to bring you a fascinating, pioneering project documenting the history of Chinese migration to Leicester.

leicester Chinese


Cosmopolitan Arts Presents:

The 1950s
The 1980s
The 2000s

The growing affluence of China and Hong Kong enables a new generation to study at UK institutions, such as DeMontfort University and the University of Leicester. Chinese people rise to 0.3% of Leicestershire's population and 1% of its ethnic minorities.

The trends of the 1990s continue, as Hong Kong and Chinese parents increasingly send their children to study abroad.

In 1997 Britain agrees to hand over Hong Kong sovereignty. Many Hong Kong Cantonese migrate, fearing political uncertainty.
The 1990s
An estimated 80,000 Hong Kong and Chinese students attend UK universities in the academic year of 2004-05.

Ethnic group (Chinese) 1991 Census

Leicester = 770 Leicestershire / Total = 859


Ethnic group (Chinese) 2001 Census

Leicester = 4660 Leicestershire = 6452 Total = 11502


Place of birth (China) 2001 Census

Leicester = 290 Leicestershire = 549 Total = 861


Place of Birth (Hong Kong) 2001 Census

Leicester = 460 Leicestershire = 870 Total = 1385



China's economy continues to grow. Today, more businesses than ever are owned or partially-owned by Chinese business people and investors, including the Fosse Park Shopping development.

Leicester continues to be an increasingly popular place to study and many Chinese graduates choose to stay, taking up educational and academic roles in society.
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