The Coloniser and the Immigrant: Sir Cecil Clementi Smith, Sir Cecil Clementi & Singapore Chinese Societies (殖民与移民: 史密斯, 金文泰总督与新加坡华人社团)

Sir Cecil Clementi Smith & Sir Cecil Clementi

Sir Cecil Clementi Smith (L) & Sir Cecil Clementi (R)

In the development of societies regulations in Singapore during the British colonial era, the suppression of secret societies and the prohibition against the Kuomintang (Chinese Nationalist Party) are two incidents of importance occurring respectively under the governorship of Sir Cecil Clementi Smith and Sir Cecil Clementi. From the perspective of British colonialism, these societies not only threatened the peace of the Singapore society but also challenged the paramountcy of the colonial government.

During the nineteenth century, the existence of Chinese secret societies had long been a crucial social problem for British administrators and people in Singapore. Some early attempts to loosely regulate them were proved to be unsuccessful. After the arrival of Sir Cecil Clementi Smith as the Governor of the Straits Settlements in 1887, he took the initiative to implement reforms and adopted a policy of total suppression.

Under the Societies Ordinance 1889, all secret societies were thus declared to be unlawful. After secret societies were suppressed, the Kuomintang became the next target of the colonial government due to its Chinese nationalism. As soon as Sir Cecil Clementi arrived at Singapore from Hong Kong to assume office as the Governor in 1930, he immediately issued an order to clamp down on branches of the Kuomintang in Malaya. This decision, however, triggered off a serious diplomatic crisis between Britain and China. The British Minister to China must intervene in the dispute and eventually negotiated a compromising agreement with the Chinese Minister for Foreign Affairs.

There are five chapters in this book, which recounts stories and debates behind the policy-making process of British administrators in Singapore and London, discusses the impact of societies regulations as well as varied responses of Singapore Chinese societies, and thus illustrates the multifaceted relationship between the British colonisers and the Chinese immigrants.

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