Navy Ends Century-Old Tradition of Chinese Laundrymen on Warships
Historical Tradition Replaced Amid Security Concerns
The British Navy is bidding farewell to a long-standing tradition by discontinuing the practice of employing Chinese laundrymen on its warships.
This tradition, which dates back to the 1930s, saw hundreds of Chinese laundrymen hired, primarily from Hong Kong, to perform tasks such as washing and pressing sailors’ uniforms and officers’ white tablecloths.
However, recent security concerns have prompted a change.
Security Concerns over Espionage
The decision to replace Chinese laundrymen with Nepalese Gurkhas is motivated by fears of espionage.
Intelligence agencies have expressed concerns that Chinese authorities could leverage the laundrymen’s loved ones in China to obtain sensitive Navy secrets.
This concern has escalated in the wake of MI5 spy chief Ken McCallum’s warning about China’s increased efforts to steal British nuclear submarine secrets.
Recent Instances and Dismissals
In a recent development, three Chinese nationals were barred from joining the HMS Queen Elizabeth, the Royal Navy’s flagship aircraft carrier, on its carrier strike group voyage to the contested South China Sea.
Additionally, a fourth Chinese laundryman, who had served the Navy loyally for 39 years, was dismissed.
The reason for his dismissal was that his family resides in Hong Kong, raising concerns over potential Chinese pressure.
Security Measures and Ongoing Employment
Despite the discontinuation of the traditional practice, at least four Chinese nationals are still employed by the Royal Navy.
Sources suggest that they passed security vetting because their families had relocated to Britain, offering a degree of protection from potential Chinese influence.
The Royal Navy has emphasized its commitment to ensuring that all civilian contractors, including those replacing the Chinese laundrymen, possess the appropriate security clearances.
The decision to end this century-old tradition highlights the growing importance of national security in the face of evolving global geopolitics.
While it’s a significant shift, it underscores the complexities and concerns related to espionage in an interconnected world.
The Navy’s actions reflect its commitment to safeguarding sensitive information in an increasingly competitive international landscape.