The fatal maiden voyage of RMS Titanic left only 706 survivors in 1912. Among them were six Chinese passengers who had a very different experience in their rescue.
A passenger list reveals that there were eight travelers of Chinese descent aboard the Titanic, but only six of them survived. Lee Bing, Chang Chip, Chung Foo, Ling Hee, Fang Lang, and Ah Lam were thought to be sailors en route to the Caribbean for work. As the Titanic sank, only 20 lifeboats could save roughly half of the passengers.
Fang Lang was found desperately clutching onto a floating wooden door when one of the lifeboats was searching for survivors. It is thought that his story inspired the famous scene in 1997's "Titanic" when Rose, played by Kate Winslet, survives by laying on a floating door.
Upon arriving at Ellis Island's immigration inspection station, the surviving Chinese passengers were immediately turned away under the Chinese Exclusion Act. Originally enacted in 1882, the federal law banned Chinese immigrants from entering the United States. The act was originally only supposed to bar Chinese immigration for 10 years, but, it was not fully repealed until 1943.
Not only did the group face immediate deportation, they were subject to racist attacks in the media due to increasing anti-Chinese sentiment at the time. One report in the days following the disaster uplifted the "heroism of the Anglo-Saxon sailors" and referred to the Chinese survivors as "creatures" who hid themselves under the seats of the lifeboats. They were also accused of being stowaways who dressed as women to secure a place on the lifeboats. According to the BBC, historians have disproved many of these accusations.
After being turned away from the US, some of the Chinese survivors landed in Cuba before eventually making their way to the United Kingdom to support the sailor shortage during World War I. Chang Chip developed pneumonia and passed away in 1914. Despite their contributions to the war efforts, some of the other survivors were forced to leave the United Kingdom in 1920, leaving their loved ones and lives they had built behind.
The remaining survivors made their way around the world - Hong Kong, India, Canada, and even back to the United States. Their subjection to forced relocation, and the animosity they faced as foreigners in the US, has been a missing piece in the retelling of the Titanic for over a century.