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The Chinese in Hawaii


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The Chinese Exclusion Acts
Armstrong Building, Honolulu Chinatown

The Armstrong Building was one of the more substantial buildings constructed following the disastrous 1900 Chinatown fire. Together with the Winston Building, they formed an imposing entry into Chinatown across the Nu'uanu Stream.

Photo by John Fischer

The passage of the Chinese Exclusion Act by the U.S. Congress in 1882, in response to anti-Chinese sentiment in California, resulted in an increase in migration of Chinese from the United States to the Kingdom of Hawaii.

This increase in immigration from California, combined with the movement of former Chinese laborers from the plantations into ownership of business, was perceived by many of those in power in Hawaii as a threat.

The Chinese Exclusion Act of 1886 was passed by the Hawaiian Cabinet Council to severely limit the number of Chinese entering Hawaii.

When Hawaii became a territory of the United States in 1900, the U.S. Chinese Exclusion Act was extended to Hawaii, and Chinese immigration was virtually stopped, except for those who could qualify under specific exempt status.

At the same time, many Chinese elected to return to China. By 1910 there were fewer than 21,000 Chinese in Hawaii.

With the repeal of the exclusion laws in 1943 and the passage of congressional legislation allowing for expanded immigration, Chinese immigration to Hawaii once again picked up.

The 1980 census showed in excess of 50,000 Chinese in Hawaii. New immigrants arrive every year from Taiwan and the People's Republic of China, including Hong Kong.

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