Study Buddy (Explorer): Fiji’s links to Hong Kong and China go back much further than the Rugby Sevens

  • Each week, Study Buddy Explorer presents an interesting story that we have adjusted to be more accessible for all English learners
  • Check your reading comprehension using the questions below or in the linked Kahoot! game
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The Fiji team celebrates after winning against New Zealand during the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens tournament. Photo: EPA

Content provided by the British Council

Read the following text and answer questions 1-9 below:

[1] Fiji is in the mid-Pacific, more than a three-hour flight from both Australia and New Zealand. The island nation is about as remote from Hong Kong as could be imagined. Yet long-standing connections between these former British colonies go far beyond the annual Rugby Sevens tournaments.

[2] Fiji was a British colony by treaty from 1874 until independence in 1970. From the earliest years, Hong Kong and Fiji were closely connected. Government officials were occasionally posted in both colonies, and as officials advanced in seniority, governors and colonial secretaries rotated as well.

[3] Alexander Grantham, Francis Henry May, Hercules Robinson and William Des Voeux – familiar names in Hong Kong’s colonial history – all served in Fiji. In Fiji, Des Voeux Peak, the second-highest mountain in the archipelago, on the island of Taveuni, bears William Des Voeux’s name; Grantham has a road named after him, in the capital city of Suva. Des Voeux wrote a detailed memoir of his overseas service career, called My Colonial Service, which appeared in two volumes in 1903. The book talks quite a bit about Fiji and Hong Kong, and contains fascinating first-hand observations of times and places.

[4] Government cross-posting practices continued until the very twilight of imperial rule in the late 1960s. With independence in Fiji, a small cluster of former Pacific Islands administrative service and police officers came to Hong Kong for their last few years before retirement. Roy Henry, Hong Kong’s commissioner of police from 1979 to 1984, moved to Hong Kong in 1973 from Fiji. While most were from Fiji, others transferred from earlier careers in other Pacific Island nations, such as the Solomon Islands, the Gilbert and Ellice Islands, and the New Hebrides.

[5] Chinese migration through and from Hong Kong to Australia and New Zealand have been well-documented and thoroughly studied, both in academic settings and popular formats such as family histories. Less studied, but no less interesting, is Chinese – mostly Cantonese – migration to Pacific Island countries. Fiji, in particular, became a major destination for Chinese immigrants, though there were far fewer of them going to Fiji than to Australia and New Zealand.

[6] Even in a place like Fiji, there is a lot to learn about early Chinese migrants from Hong Kong. Some 80 per cent of the Chinese in Fiji are of Cantonese descent. Suva has a thriving Chinatown, though it is small. Many general stores are run by long-settled Chinese.

[7] Over time, Chinese language usage in Fiji greatly declined. In Via Ports – From Hong Kong to Hong Kong (1965), Grantham recalled, “When [I was] Governor of Fiji, I thought I would try out my Cantonese on a Chinese shopkeeper in one of the outlying villages. He listened to me in polite bewilderment for a few minutes and then said, ‘more better you speak English’.”

[8] As in other Chinese immigrant societies, such as parts of the West Indies – especially British Guiana and Trinidad – Chinese males settled without wives. So they married women from other ethnic groups and had children with them. Consequently, many “Chinese” look Fijian, and identify culturally with that group.

Source: South China Morning Post, June 15


Play a Kahoot! game about this story as a class or with your friends by clicking on the link here.

Or play on your own below to test your understanding:

1. What similarities do Fiji and Hong Kong have according to paragraph 1? (2 marks)
(i) They are both former ________________.
(ii) They are both involved in the annual ______________.

2. According to paragraph 2, how long was Fiji a colony?

3. What do Alexander Grantham and William Des Voeux have named after them in Fiji? (2 marks)

4. Find words or phrases in paragraph 4 that match the following definitions. (4 marks)
(i) moved from one place to another for work: ________________
(ii) group: ________________
(iii) last remaining days or years of something: ________________
(iv) often the end of a career: ________________

5. Read paragraph 5 and decide whether the following statements about Chinese migration are True, False or Not Given. (4 marks)
(i) A lot is known about migration from Hong Kong to Australia.
(ii) There are plenty of academic studies on Hong Kong migrants who moved to New Zealand.
(iii) New Zealand has had less migration from China than Fiji has had.
(iv) Most people who migrated from China to Fiji can’t speak basic English.

6. According to paragraph 6, where in Fiji can you find a “small but thriving” Chinese community?

7. What happened to Alexander Grantham when he tried to speak Cantonese to a Chinese shopkeeper in Fiji?
A. He was asked to leave the shop.
B. He was asked to speak English.
C. The shopkeeper was happy to speak Cantonese with him.
D. None of the above

8. List two places other than Fiji which have Chinese immigrant societies according to paragraph 8.

9. Why do many descendants of Chinese migrants in Fiji look Fijian according to paragraph 8?


1. (i) British colonies; (ii) Rugby Sevens
2. 96 years
3. A road is named after Alexander Grantham, and William Des Voeux has a mountain named after him.
4. (i) cross-posted; (ii) cluster; (iii) twilight; (iv) retirement
5. (i) T; (ii) T; (iii) F; (iv) NG
6. Suva
7. B
8. British Guiana; Trinidad
9. Chinese migrants who settled down in Fiji married women from other ethnic groups and had children who look Fijian.

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