Overseas Chinese Association


The Overseas Chinese Association was formed in March 1942 during the Japanese occupation of Singapore.  The association was formed at the direction of the Japanese military authorities to mediate between the authorities and the local Chinese community.  However, at the outset, the Japanese military authorities used it to extract a $50 million donation from the Chinese community in Malaya.

The $50 Million Donation Extortion by the Japanese Military Administration
As soon as the Japanese took over Singapore in February 1942, they carried out the Sook Ching operation, a massive exercise to ferret out the anti-Japanese elements from the local Chinese community.  Thousands of local Chinese were rounded up by the Japanese military authorities.  Among them there were a number of prominent Chinese leaders, including Dr Lim Boon Keng, who was asked by the Japanese military authorities to be the leader of the Chinese community.  One day in early March 1942, Lim and a delegation of Chinese leaders were summoned for a meeting with Colonel Watanabe, the Chief Military Administrator, and his adviser, Toru Takase.  In the meeting, the Japanese demanded that the Chinese leaders make a voluntary donation of $50 million or $60 million as a gift to atone for their anti-Japanese activities.  The figure was finalised at $50 million ($10 million from the Chinese in Singapore and $40 million from the Chinese in the rest of Malaya), and the deadline for presenting the donation was set at  20 April 1942.  

On 2 March 1942, the Overseas Chinese Association (OCA) was formed to raise the money.  The association set up its headquarters at the old Chinese Chamber of Commerce building in Hill Street.  Lim and S. Q. Wong, a prominent businessman, were made chairman and vice chairman respectively.  In order to raise the $10 million from the Chinese community in Singapore, it was decided that all individuals should contribute eight per cent on their properties exceeding $3,000, and companies should contribute five per cent of their assets.  Many were forced to sell their assets in desperate attempt to raise the money.  At that time, the total currency in circulation in Malaya was only $220 million, including the reserves held by the banks.  Hence it was extremely difficult to raise $50 million from the market.  After extending the deadline twice, Takase wanted to improve the fund raising mechanism and ordered the formation of OCA in every Malayan state.  On 6 June 1942, the Malayan Overseas Chinese General Association was formed, and it consisted the Singapore and Malayan states OCAs.  Despite three extensions, only $28 million were raised by 20 June.  Eventually, Takase allowed the association to take a $22 million collateralised loan from Yokohama Specie Bank at six per cent interest.  On 25 June 1942,  Lim and 57 Chinese leaders presented the $50 million cheque to General Yamashita.      
Mamoru Shinozaki
Shinozaki came to Singapore before the war as the press attaché to Japan's consul-general.  In 1940 he was imprisoned by the British for spying for Japan.  In 1942, when the Japanese army occupied Singapore, he was freed and was appointed as a senior official in the Defence Headquarters.   When Lim  was detained by the Japanese military authorities during the first days of Japanese occupation,  Shinozaki persuaded him to accept the proposal of his becoming the leader of the Chinese community.  According to Shinozaki, he initiated the idea of forming a Chinese organisation to protect the Chinese community.   The organisation would work with the Japanese military authorities on the surface but its real objective would be to protect the Chinese community and to secure the release of prominent Chinese leaders held by the Japanese military authorities.  Shinozaki persuaded Major-General Manaki, Singapore's first military administrator, to approve the proposal.  He then persuaded the Kempeitai to release prominent Chinese leaders to join the organisation.   When the OCA was formed, Shinozaki became its adviser.  Unfortunately, some anti-Chinese members of the Japanese military authorities criticised Shinozaki as being pro-Chinese.   When Colonel Watanabe took over as the Chief Military Administrator, Shinozaki was removed from his post as adviser to the OCA.  He was replaced by Takase, who used the OCA to exploit the Chinese community.

Endau Settlement
In August 1942, Shinozaki, who had become Chief Welfare Officer, was once again put in charge of the OCA.  That same month, he worked with the association on the Endau Settlement project, which was initiated to solve the food shortage problem by encouraging Singaporeans to settle outside the island.  The association raised $1 million to help develop an agricultural settlement in Endau, Johor, which was intended to be self-sufficient in rice and other produce.

In addition, the OCA was also involved in other activities such as providing financial and administrative assistance to orphanages and homes for the aged and the destitute, and conducting Japanese language classes.  Until the end of the occupation in 1945, the association acted as a go-between for the Chinese community and the Japanese authorities. 

Joshua Chia Yeong Jia

Chuang, H. T. (1984).  Malayan Chinese resistance to Japan 1937-1945: Selected source materials based on Colonel Chuang Hui-Tsuan's collection (pp. 350-354).  Singapore: Cultural & Historical Pub. House.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57023 MAL)

Lee, G. B. (1992).  Syonan: Singapore under the Japanese 1942 - 1945 (pp. 58-59).  Singapore: Singapore Heritage Society.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57023 LEE)

Shinozaki, M. (1982).  Syonan - my story: The Japanese occupation of Singapore. (pp. 25-30, 45-48, 79-86, 114).  Singapore: Times Books International.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57023 SHI)

Tan, B. L. (1996). The Japanese occupation 1942-1945: A pictorial record of Singapore during the war (pp. 84-86, 90-93, 119, 135-137, 163). Singapore: Times Editions.
(Call no.: RSING 940.5425 TAN)

Tan, Y. S. (1947). History of the formation of the Oversea Chinese Association and the extortion by J.M.A. of $50,000,000 military contribution from the Chinese in Malaya.  Singapore: Nanyang Book Co.
(Call no.: RDTYS 940.53109595 TAN)

Turnbull, C. M. (1989). A History of Singapore: 1819-1988 (2nd ed, pp. 194--196, 198, 208). Singapore: Oxford University Press.
(Call no.: RSING 959.57 TUR)

The information in this article is valid as at 2006 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources.  It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject.  Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.

Heritage and Culture
Singapore--History--Japanese occupation, 1942-1945
Ethnic Communities
1942-1945 Japanese occupation
History>>Asia>>Southeast Asia>>Singapore
Events>>Historical Periods>>World War II and Japanese Occupation (1939 - 1945)

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