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Today in Labour History

14 October 1902
Coolie shed, Sumatra 1902
Source: BG C15/991

Chinese Coolies shot

Two Chinese contract labourers on the run in Sumatra, Dutch East Indies,  were shot dead by 'caretakers' on 14 October 1902, according to the Sumatra Post.  A lot of such incidents occurred in colonial times. In 1902, a report was published that equated contract labour with slavery. In the ensuing debate, the Dutch socialist Henri van Kol played an active role. That same year, Van Kol travelled through Indonesia and made up this character sketch of the Chinese workers:

'As the dregs of Chinese society immigrated via Singapore, most of these people were prone to illnesses, they filled the hospitals, and the mortality among them was high. Some of them had to be deported because of 'bestial situations'...'


More info: Coolies, Capital and Colonialism, IRSH supplement (2006)