Oversea Chinese Association

The Oversea Chinese Association (OCA), or 昭南岛华侨协会, was established in March 1942 during the Japanese Occupation of Singapore (1942–45). The association was formed under the direction of the Japanese military administration, with the original intention to mediate between the authorities and the local Chinese community. The Japanese military authorities, however, used the association to extort $50 million from the Chinese community in Malaya.

Before World War II, Mamoru Shinozaki came to Singapore as the press attaché to Japan’s consul-general. In 1940, he was imprisoned by the British for spying for Japan. When the Japanese army occupied Singapore in 1942, he was freed and appointed a senior official in the defence headquarters.1

As soon as the Japanese took over Singapore in February 1942, they carried out the Sook Ching operation, a massive exercise to ferret out anti-Japanese elements from the local Chinese community. Thousands of local Chinese were rounded up by the Japanese military police known as the Kempeitai, including a number of prominent Chinese leaders such as Lim Boon Keng (林文庆).2

When Lim was detained by the Japanese, Shinozaki persuaded him to act as the leader of the Chinese community and initiated the idea of forming a Chinese organisation. The organisation would ostensibly work with the Japanese military authorities, but its real objective would be to protect the Chinese community and secure the release of prominent Chinese leaders held by the Japanese military. Shinozaki persuaded Major-General Manaki, the Japanese chief military administrator in Singapore, to approve the proposal. He then persuaded the Kempeitai to release prominent Chinese leaders to join the organisation.3

The OCA was formed on 2 March 1942 and headquartered at the Chinese Chamber of Commerce building on Hill Street. Lim, and S. Q. Wong – a prominent businessman, were appointed the association’s chairman and vice-chairman respectively.4

When the OCA was formed, Shinozaki became its adviser. However, some anti-Chinese members of the Japanese military administration criticised Shinozaki as being pro-Chinese. When Colonel Watanabe took over as the chief military administrator, Shinozaki was removed from his post as OCA’s adviser. He was replaced by Toru Takase (also spelt Takasei), who used the OCA to exploit the Chinese community.5

The Japanese demanded that the Chinese leaders gift $50 million or $60 million to the Japanese administration to atone for their “anti-Japanese activities”.6 The sum was finalised at $50 million – $10 million from the Chinese in Singapore and $40 million from those residing in the rest of Malaya. The deadline for presenting the “donation” was 20 April 1942.7

To raise the $10 million from Singapore’s Chinese community, the OCA decided that all individuals should contribute eight percent of the value of their properties exceeding $3,000, and for companies, five percent of their assets. Many were forced to sell their assets in order to raise the sum.8 At the time, the total currency in circulation in Malaya was only $220 million including reserves held by banks. It was thus extremely difficult to raise $50 million from the market.9

After extending the deadline twice, Takase wanted to improve the fundraising mechanism and thus ordered the formation of an OCA in every Malayan state. On 6 June 1942, the Malayan Overseas Chinese General Association was formed, comprising OCAs from Singapore and Malayan states. Despite three extensions, only $28 million was raised by 20 June. Eventually, Takase allowed the association to take a $22 million collateralised loan from the Japanese Yokohama Specie Bank at a six-percent interest rate. On 25 June 1942, Lim and 57 Chinese leaders presented the $50 million cheque to General Tomoyuki Yamashita.10

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 OCA on the Endau Settlement project, which aimed to address food shortage problems by encouraging the population in Singapore to settle in peninsular Malaya. 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.11

Other activities
The OCA was also involved in other activities such as providing financial and administrative assistance to orphanages and homes for the aged and 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.12

Joshua Chia Yeong Jia

1. Mamoru Shinozaki, Syonan – My Story: The Japanese Occupation of Singapore (Singapore: Times Books International, 1992), 18–26. (Call no. RSING 959.57023 SHI-[HIS]); Lee Geok Boi, Syonan: Singapore under the Japanese 1942–1945(Singapore: Singapore Heritage Society, 1992), 88. (Call no. RSING 959.57023 LEE-[HIS])
2. Constance Mary Turnbull, A History of Singapore, 1819–1988 (Singapore: Oxford University Press, 1989), 195. (Call no. RSING 959.57 TUR-[HIS]); Tan Beng Luan and Irene Quah, The Japanese Occupation 1942–1945: A Pictorial Record of Singapore during the War (Singapore: Times Edition, 1996), 67, 90–91. (Call no. RSING 940.5425 TAN-[WAR]); Shinozaki, Syonan – My Story, 44–45.
3. Turnbull, History of Singapore, 195; Shinozaki, Syonan – My Story, 55–56; Lee, Singapore under the Japanese, 88.
4. Shinozaki, Syonan – My Story, 54–55, 75–76; Tan Yeok Seong, 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.1947), 3, 6–7. (Call no. RDTYS 940.53109595 TAN)
5. Turnbull, History of Singapore, 195; Shinozaki, Syonan – My Story, 55–56.
6. Tan, History of the Formation of the Oversea Chinese Association, 3–6.
7. Turnbull, History of Singapore, 195; Tan and Quah, Pictorial Record of Singapore during the War, 90–91.
8. Turnbull, History of Singapore, 202–03.
9. Shinozaki, Syonan – My Story, 54–55, 75–76; Tan, History of the Formation of the Oversea Chinese Association, 6–7.
10. Shu Yun-Tsiao and Chua Ser-Koon, eds., Malayan Chinese Resistance to Japan 1937–1945: Selected Source Materials Based on Colonel Chuang Hui-Tsuan’s Collection (Singapore: Cultural & Historical Pub. House, 1984), 350–354. (Call no. RSING 959.57023 MAL); Tan, History of the Formation of the Oversea Chinese Association, 9–11; Tan and Quah, Pictorial Record of Singapore during the War, 92.
11. Tan and Quah, Pictorial Record of Singapore during the War, 135–36; Lee, Singapore under the Japanese, 166; Turnbull, History of Singapore, 198, 208.
12. Shu and Chua, Malayan Chinese Resistance to Japan 1937–1945, 350–54; Tan and Quah, Pictorial Record of Singapore during the War, 93; Turnbull, History of Singapore, 198.

The information in this article is valid as at May 2019 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
1942-1945 Japanese occupation