Slavery #2

So, you’ve heard of Macau. Oh, you haven’t? Quick explanation, then.

You’ve heard of Hong Kong. Hong Kong was a British colony taken from China. This was at the end of the second Opium Wars, when China got its butt kicked and Britain took whatever the hell it wanted.

Well, Britain was good friends with Portugal (and still is; longest alliance in history or something like that). Portugal had set up a port called Macau hundreds of years before the Opium Wars; they paid China a certain amount of silver in order to have that port.

As you can probably guess, when Britain was taking what it wanted, Portugal decided that would be a good moment to demand Macau be its colony, since China couldn’t really stop them (yes, the Europeans were very much jerks towards China).

However, the slavery related to Macau takes place long before this land grab.

It’s the 1500s. Slavery is commonplace, and not just for Africans or indigenous folks. The Portuguese kept slaves of both African origin and Moorish (that being the Muslims who used to live in Iberia aka Spain and Portugal and who lived along North Africa as well) origin.

Both types of slaves were considered valuable. But can you guess what ethnicity was most valuable?

Back to Macau. Loads of Chinese people lived in and near Macau, and Portugal was big time into slavery. So, what do the merchants get into? Buying or kidnapping young Chinese boys to sell back in Portugal.

This went on until 1595, when the king outlawed slavery of Chinese persons of either sex. Mind you, other slavery was still fine; it would take a long time until slavery in general was outlawed in Portugal.

Macau went on to become a major source of coolie labor in the 19th century, which was essentially slavery, but considered indentured servitude.

Of course, there’s far more to Macau’s history than slavery, but like many, many countries, the dark smudge of slavery still lives in its shadow.


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